Are European cities keeping their promises in terms of cycling infrastructure?
Well, the short answer is that there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic and there is still a lot of work to be done! Speaking at an online event co-hosted by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) last year, “Celebrating Cycling Cities: Sharing Europe’s Best Practices”, the Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and Management Water, Stientje van Veldhoven, summed it up nicely by describing the collaborative efforts that underpin the successful development of cycling infrastructure. His main argument was that the number of cyclists in a city would increase, provided mobility networks are combined with high-quality infrastructure and a policy that takes cycling seriously. She explained: “The bicycle is our secret weapon against so many problems that we face.”
Indeed, if you are reading this, you probably already know that the benefits of making changes to a city’s infrastructure to better accommodate cyclists will be considerable. That said, in addition to the great progress made at EU level, much action will still need to take place locally, which is why it is crucial to continue to share success stories and design new action plans.
So, as we look to continue harnessing the enthusiasm for more bike-friendly cities, here are some updates on what’s happening across Europe and some strategies to use if you’re looking to champion cycling in your own city.
Milan thinks big when it comes to protected cycle paths
Realizing it had a pollution problem that required immediate action, Milan set out on a mission to become the most bike-friendly city in Europe. As a center of significant industrial activity and pervasive car addiction, smog wreaks considerable havoc on the city. So, to combat the problem, the city plans to build 750 kilometers (466 miles) of protected bike lanes by 2035.
The first part of its vast network, which will be organized around five concentric cycle belts starting from the city center, should be ready this summer. The entire $285 million effort is the most ambitious cycling infrastructure project in the region, surpassing the 680 kilometers of bike paths planned in Paris. Hopefully this ‘go-big-or-go-home’ approach will see the city usher in a new era as a cyclist’s paradise.
Prague integrates free shared bikes as a permanent part of the city’s public transport
Access to bikes is an essential part of the equation of making cities bike-friendly that is sometimes overlooked. Prague is taking steps to change that. A pilot project offering holders of a Prague public transport pass free access to short bike rides has been successful and will become a permanent offer in the city. Thanks to this new program, holders of the Prague Lítačka public transport pass also have access to shared bicycles from the companies Rekola and Nextbike for periods of up to 15 minutes, up to four times a day for free. This should definitely encourage new riders to join the ranks!
Paris aims to make itself accessible to the public in 15 minutes or less
What if we told you that you could go anywhere in Paris in 15 minutes? Well, that seemingly utopian impossibility might not be as far off as you think. Partially inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs who considered neighborhoods as social connectors, the idea of cities in 15 minutes was developed by Carlos Moreno, a professor at the Sorbonne who aimed to improve the quality of urban life.
The plan in Paris, dubbed the “quarter-hour city,” is to transform the capital into more efficient neighborhoods to reduce pollution and create socially and economically diverse areas. Especially for us cyclists, they want to continue to pedestrianize the capital by putting a cycle lane in every street within three years – while removing 60,000 parking spaces for cars. Your dreams of cruising the Champs-Élysées with a baguette in your front basket might just come true after all!
Want to help your city become more bike-friendly, but don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas:
If these examples inspire you but seem a bit beyond what you can reasonably ask of your city officials, here are some smaller steps communities can take to find longer-term cycling solutions.
Temporary bike lanes for victory
In the midst of the pandemic, many cities have opted to set up temporary bike lanes to direct traffic to local shops and businesses. Cycling advocates were, understandably, quick to press for the changes to be made permanent and extended. If your city hasn’t tested this theory, this is a great, cost-effective way to see if providing more bike lanes would benefit your community.
Arrange a parking lot (bicycle)
Better access to public bike parking is a necessary component to creating a more bike-friendly community. In the same way that you should not doubt that there will be parking available for your car, know that you will have a place to store your bike when you arrive at your destination. Bike racks or parking lots are a pretty easy and affordable way to get your city on the right track.
Give cyclists the tools they need to feel safe on the road
Launch a campaign for free or incentive bike repair kits. By giving riders tools to fix their bikes on the go, the more likely they are to continue riding and feel confident while riding. It’s an easy thing cities can do to send a clear signal that they’re serious about their commitment to becoming more bike-friendly.