Kevin Mayne, ECF, 4/4/2014
The EU cannot deliver its mandatory carbon reduction targets without a massive shift away from carbon producing vehicles. Shifting to sustainable means of transportation is within our reach through innovation and a major part of that innovation is seeing the common simple machine – the bicycle – as a part of the solution.
Most transport politicians don’t know the power of cycling in Europe. They have been convinced that there is no need to encourage change in transport, what is needed are new technologies. This is in part because it is easier for politicians to rely on technology rather than to create change or face the vested interests. It also allows the EU to invest in businesses during the current financial crisis. So the EU’s transport strategy doesn’t say ‘start cycling’, it focuses on technological innovations. EU processes that are industry led lack or ignore cycling completely, and bicycles as a new technology are not included in alternative fuels and other technical programmes.
The EU’s Environmental Action Plan (EAP) (1386/2013/EU) and its Transport White Paper both foresee a vital need for technical innovation in transport to reduce GHG emissions. As the Transport White Paper says:
8.New technologies for vehicles and traffic management will be key to lower transport emissions in the EU as in the rest of the world. The race for sustainable mobility is a global one. Delayed action and timid introduction of new technologies could condemn the EU transport industry to irreversible decline.
43.‘Growing out of oil’ will not be possible relying on a single technological solution. It requires a new concept of mobility, supported by a cluster of new technologies as well as more sustainable behaviour.
44.Technological innovation can achieve a faster and cheaper transition to a more efficient and sustainable European transport system ….. The synergies with other sustainability objectives such as the reduction of oil dependence, the competitiveness of Europe’s automotive industry as well as health benefits, especially improved air quality in cities, make a compelling case for the EU to step up its efforts to accelerate the development and early deployment of clean vehicles.
7th Environmental Action Plan says:
“Addressing some of these complex issues requires tapping into the full potential of existing environmental technology and ensuring the continuous development and uptake by industry of the best available techniques and emerging innovations, as well as increased use of market-based instruments. Rapid advances in promising fields of science and technology are also needed.” “At the same time, we need a better understanding of potential risks to the environment and human health associated with new technologies, and we need to assess and manage these better.” “Major technological innovations should be accompanied by public dialogues and participatory processes.”
There are 28 references to new technologies and new information systems in the Transport White Paper’s initiative list.
Cycling has long been considered a stable and not especially exciting technical opportunity for the transport sector. At Eurobike – an international bicycle trade fair – when Angela Merkel was told by the bicycle industry that they’ve “put 1 million e-vehicles on Germany’s roads,” she replied: “we didn’t mean that”. The official German objective to have 1 million e-vehicles by 2020 is focused on electric cars and Merkel’s response is indicative of the current situation: the cycling sector is just not considered in this new technology sector. Other industries and other lobbies are making major coordinated efforts to convince politicians that they will deliver the future of low carbon transport; they just need investment and support to make their breakthrough!
However this has to change. Cycling has expanded enormously and shows a huge potential as a new technology. The bicycle is not just a simple machine; it is a powerful innovative tool – and there are ‘game changing’ breakthroughs to highlight:
• E-bikes and pedelecs are the first class of electric vehicles to establish themselves in the market. There are now 1million e vehicles on German roads. Not only is this achieving the goals of the 7th EAP and the Transport White Paper in replacing short trips, it also opens up trips up to 20km to a huge new sector of the public requiring a new form of infrastructure. In cycle tourism it has accessed a whole demographic substituting car based trips.
• Public bike sharing (PBS) – turns bikes into public transport. PBS has been referred to as ‘the wonder drug’ in transport policy. It has gained rapid public acceptance, it is supported by a wide range of public-private financial models and is being rolled out across the world. Europe alone is home to some 400 schemes – Paris has the largest scheme with 18,380 active bikes. It has shifted transport paradigms and created new business models. There is clear evidence that PBS encourages mode shift, especially when combined with public transport where it enables seamless trips – replacing private car use and taking pressure off public transport services. There is an economic impact too – a study by the International Labour Organisation showed that bike sharing investment could stimulate 70,000 green jobs in Spain. Currently the 4th generation PBS is being rolled out, integrating electrically assisted bicycles and moving away from “fixed terminals” to manage bicycle hire. Other new trends are deployment in smaller towns, deployment in hilly cities, tracking and payment using smart phone technologies and GPS, interoperability between schemes and other modes.
• Cargo bikes – In 2014 ECF will complete its participation in the Intelligent Energy Europe (STEER) project Cyclelogistics. The project has shown that bikes could make up to 50% of short urban logistics trips. This is reflected by the take up of cargo bikes by big businesses such as DHL and TNT as well as smaller local providers. From the end of the IEE project in April 2014 ECF’s objective is to disseminate the findings of the project and associated best practices throughout the EU.
• Intelligent Transport Systems – There are fifteen initiatives for new intelligent technologies in the White Paper on Transport. It says “Joint European efforts will bring the greatest European added value in areas such as: Integrated transport management and information systems, facilitating smart mobility services, traffic management for improved use of infrastructure and vehicles, and real-time information systems to track and trace freight and to manage freight flows; passenger/travel information, booking and payment systems. Intelligent infrastructure to ensure maximum monitoring and inter-operability of the different forms of transport and communication between infrastructure and vehicles.” Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) (Directive 2010/40/EU) initiates actions from DGs Move, Energy, Connect, Enterprise, and Research. There are now a range of deployment initiatives, standardisation initiatives and other deployments that have emerged from the Expert Group working from 2010-2012 notably in the SMART Cities initiative but also in other areas. Cycling should have a place in complete journey planning, integrated mobility, 4th generation bike sharing integrated with public transportation (such as E-bike sharing), driving systems on mobiles, common ticketing, in-car vulnerable road user detection. Much of the initial work and consultations in this sector have been on-going since the ITS Directive, however there are now a substantial range of deployment initiatives, standardisation initiatives and other deployments that have emerged from the Expert Group working from 2010-2012.
• Cycle highways / cycling infrastructure. Finally, an increase in cycling facilitated through the aforementioned innovations like e-bikes, public sharing systems, and cargo bikes can only reach its full potential if there is an upgrade of the existing infrastructure. There is room here for innovation as well, such as cycle highways.
At the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), we recognize that we have to do the following:
1.Ensure that the environmental (noise, air quality, CO2), congestion, health and economic benefits of cycling and more specifically electric assisted cycling are recognised in all relevant aspects of new transport technologies.
2.Help the cycling industry to become part of policy, research and deployment activities at the EU level.
3.Highlight areas where cycling is already leading in terms of public and political acceptance or sales and mode shift from polluting vehicles and reflect these benefits in the level of investment and commitment of other public resources.
4.Collaborate with other transport modes to encourage deployment of cycling technologies on all levels: EU initiatives, member states and cities.
5.Support the widespread dissemination of information for cyclists and the cycling industry about new transport technologies, including any public health risks associated with electrical power and road safety.
ECF sees cycling as an innovative tool for sustainable mobility. ECF offers its expertise, its intelligence, its understanding of the EU policy process and its base in Brussels as a means to push cycling to the top in sustainable transport discussions. We bring our network of contacts in all cycling fields including industry, cities, academics and researchers to achieve our goals and continue to pedal towards sustainable mobility.