The European Union (EU) Ministers of Transport and Secretaries of State in charge of this competence met in Luxembourg on 7 October 2015 for an informal meeting devoted to cycling as a method of transport. Organised by the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU, the meeting was chaired by the Luxembourg Minister of Transport, François Bausch. In particular, discussions concerned the effectiveness of bicycles as a method of transport and their social, ecological and economic impact in the EU. The participants, who were able to test different types of bicycles on a cycle route laid out inside the Conference Centre where the meeting was being held, adopted a declaration on cycling as a "climate friendly" transport mode.
As an introduction to the press conference which followed the meeting, the Luxembourg Minister of Transport, François Bausch, highlighted that it was the very first meeting that the Council of Ministers had devoted to policy in the field of cycling.
The Minister called to improve the European policy on cycling and to raise awareness among the European population, recalling that he was fully aware of the fact that, by virtue of the principle of subsidiarity, the greatest responsibility would be national and even local. "But, on a European level, we must invest in order to encourage the culture of cycling because this sector has huge potential", explained François Bausch.
The European Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, declared to be prepared, in this context, to act as a coordinator with the Member States and to facilitate the exchange of good practices.
Recalling that bicycles are the most effective method of transport for distances of less than 7 km, Minister Bausch declared that they were an essential part of all multimodal transport systems. Furthermore, they can greatly improve the mobility and quality of life of 75 % of the European population who live in urban areas, which suffer from pollution, noise and heavy traffic, specified the Minister.
François Bausch again highlighted the major economic impact of bicycles because hundreds of thousands of jobs are linked to this sector, especially in tourism, and there is still a potential for others to be created.
Violeta Bulc indicated that bicycles as a method of transport could "contribute directly to growth, the emergence of new corporate models, such as the 'last mile logistics' concept, creating new jobs, and innovation".
François Bausch continued by referring to the effects on public health because, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an additional quarter of an hour of cycling a day can prevent 100,000 premature deaths per year in the EU.
The safety aspect was also considered in the Ministers' discussions. "We encourage a culture of safety as much for cyclists as for other people who are part of the traffic", announced the Commissioner.
Minister Bausch concluded by saying that bicycles were "a method of transport which does not require high spending on infrastructure, but which offers enormous potential and benefits".
The Ministers and Secretaries of State signed a declaration on cycling as a "climate friendly" transport mode
Following the Council, the Ministers and Secretaries of State unanimously adopted a declaration on cycling as a "climate friendly" transport mode. "I am happy that everyone pronounced themselves to be in favour of the declaration and I will inform the formal Transport Council of this during their meeting tomorrow", indicated François Bausch.
In their declaration, the participants agreed on several concrete recommendations:
- Integrate bicycles into the multimodal transport policy;
- Encourage the Commission to equip itself with a "bicycle strategy", by integrating bicycles into existing initiatives in which they have a logical role to play, such as CIVITAS or Smart Cities and Communities;
- Set up a body within the Commission which is in charge of the implementation of the "bicycle strategy" as well as the simple and effective transfer of good practices in this field between Member States;
- Appoint a national body in each Member State which could collect and disseminate examples of good practices between Member States and cooperate with the European body and other existing forums;
- Guarantee that national infrastructure projects take account of and increase international, national, regional and local cycle networks;
- Include cycling in local and regional urban projects;
- Mobilise good practices, financing opportunities and guidelines by working closely with the European body.
For Commissioner Bulc, it is an "important basis" on which Member States will be able to cooperate and the Commission will follow its development very closely. "From now on, bicycles are an official method of transport", she declared.
"It is a very good paper, but it will be important to follow-up the declaration, especially during the informal meeting of transport ministers on 'smart cities', which will be held in April 2016 under the authority of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union", concluded François Bausch.