The European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism committee have voted on crucial guidelines that mean cycling will be included in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) guidelines. This will potentially open the door for billions of Euros worth of cycling investment.
The guidelines are quite specific about where European funding could be spent on cycling, and it’s thought that bike tourism in particular could benefit. Spending on bike bridges or tunnels on long-distance cycle paths such as the EuroVelo routes are potential points of investment.
The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), member groups and industry allies sent tens of thousands of emails to MEPs in the lead-up to the vote.
“Our voice was heard,” commented Bernhard Ensink, secretary general of ECF. “If the cycling world hadn’t mobilized, then cycling and EuroVelo would have been sidelined by other forms of transport. Even worse, large scale transport infrastructure projects would have ignored the needs of cyclists.” He believes the vote represents “a significant change in attitude and a first step in the right direction. The gates for more investment in cycling are now open.”
Between 2007 and 2013 cycling was only allocated 0.7 percent of the EU funding available for transport. For the next financial period (2014-2020) the ECF have identified €6 billion (or 10 percent of EU funding) that should be dedicated to cycling. However, unlocking these funds will require more pressure on the European institutions from citizens who ride.
Ensink says: “The fight is not yet over. We’ve got even bigger battles to come next year as the EU makes important decisions on even larger transport budgets. We’re going to need your help to remind the European, national and regional institutions about the strategic importance of cycling.”
The next stage is a full plenary vote in the European parliament before the details are discussed and negotiated with EU member states at the Council of the European Union later next year.
EuroVelo was founded in 1995 as the brainchild of the UK’s Sustrans and Danish cycling organisation De Frie Fugle. In 2007 it was adopted by the ECF but has been hampered by lack of funds.
Despite this, the network currently consists of well over 45,000km of bike paths, with thousands more kilometres planned – when completed it will total more than 70,000km.
Signed sections of the EuroVelo route can be found in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the UK. Requirements for a EuroVelo route are:
- No gradient above 6 percent
- Wide enough for two cyclists
- An average of no more than 1,000 motorised vehicles a day and sealed for 80 percent of its length
- Open 365 days a year with food opportunities at least every 30km (19 miles), accommodation every 50km (31 miles) and public transport every 150km (93 miles)
A Sustrans spokesperson said, “As to whether the ECF’s view is realistic, the evidence suggests that it is, but it will be some time before we see investment levels reaching the proportional levels of investment that will put cycling on an equal footing with other modes of transport.
“It’s worth noting though that, in hard cash terms, the spend on cycling is still very small compared to other forms of transport – road and rail in particular. If you compare the recent (and very welcome) announcement by the DfT of £60m investment in cycling, that’s less than the cost of the 2.8km Yaxley bypass near Peterborough (£69m), itself just one small part of a £30 billion roads programme.”
Asked whether cycling in the UK had benefited specifically from European membership, the Sustrans spokesperson said, “We have certainly benefited from EU membership in the past – things like the Valleys Cycle Network in South Wales received European funding, and we have also had many other benefits, such as establishing consistent cycle route, junction, crossing, etcetera designs based on European standards.”
Sustrans have no doubt that grassroots support has been the secret of their success, and urge as many people to get involved as possible:
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned at Sustrans over the years it’s that you should never underestimate the power that volunteers, supporters, campaigners can have. Our biggest project (the National Cycle Network) exists because of the early and continuing efforts of people on the street to establish it through identifying routes, starting local campaigns, lobbying local politicians, generating local support, raising funds, etcetera.
“All the great things that people have done so far still need to be done, but on a bigger scale. If politicians believe there is a groundswell of opinion that people want to see safe places for people to cycle, and nice places for people to travel, they’ll do something about it.
“And individuals or groups who come with offers of help, support, advice, funds, etcetera, will always have more success than those who come with criticisms. The collaborative approach always works better than a confrontational one.”