Boost for cycling in Europe

Bicycle journeys in France increased 7% during the week and by 6% in urban use compared to 2022, according to a report by Vélos & Territoires.
Highway & Network Management / March 22, 2024 1 minutes Read
By Mike Woof
Cycling is an increasingly important mobility mode in Europe (image © Mike Woof)

The latest data from France shows an increase in cycling for mobility. There has been a 5% growth in bicycle use in France, according to a report by the association, Vélos & Territoires. Both conventional bicycles and e-bikes figure in this increase in cycling according to the data. The utilisation of bicycles increased 7% during the week and by 6% in urban use compared to 2022.

New cycle lanes in Paris as well as restrictions on the use of private cars have further helped increase levels of cycling in France’s capital.

And according to data from Transport for London (TfL) cycling in the city shows a 20% increase in cycling in 2023 compared to the pre-pandemic baseline in 2019. The findings, presented in the Travel in London report, showcase a positive trajectory for cycling, building on the momentum gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. TfL says that while overall cycling numbers have climbed, there have been changes in the characteristics of these journeys. The average length of cycling trips has decreased, indicating a shift towards shorter, more localised travel. Additionally, the demand profile has become less ‘peaky,’ with a higher proportion of off-peak travel compared to the pre-pandemic period.

For both Paris and London, the reduction in the use of private cars for urban trips is helping deliver improvements in air quality, delivering health benefits for all citizens. Given that poor air quality has such a major impact on public health, causing breathing issues (and deaths) for many and contributing to lost productivity as well as extra healthcare costs, tackling the causes of airborne pollution can deliver huge benefits. These cities share the benefits of having comprehensive public transport systems, so there is less of a reliance on the use of private vehicles. However, the ongoing switch amongst many commuters away from motorised vehicles to using bicycles and e-bikes for short urban journeys is reducing traffic congestion while also boosting public health (and reducing the burden on health systems) due to the advantages of active travel.

In Italy meanwhile, further boosts for cycling are expected with the development of the Apulian aqueduct, which will see a total 192km of cycle routes. The project is being managed by AQP, with financing of €35 million being provided by regional funds and NRRP funds. The new sections will deliver a cycle path on an aqueduct, forming part of the National Cycling Route No 11.

As mentioned earlier, the growth in cycling is providing a massive advantage in the overall reduction of transport emissions. For Europe’s cities with the largest populations, Paris and London, lowering levels of airborne pollution will provide long term benefits. This will also help to boost public as well as boosting productivity. Amsterdam and Copenhagen have set the lead in encouraging cycling in urban Europe but are now being followed by other cities, notably Barcelona and Berlin. However, questions remain over the safety of cyclists due to poor standards of driving

It is clear that too many drivers still do not understand what constitutes a safe passing distance. There have been suggestions that improvements in cycle safety can only come with mandatory cycle training for all drivers. This is backed up by the lower incidence of crashes between cyclists and motorists in Denmark and the Netherlands, countries where a high proportion of the population (and drivers included) are regular cyclists.

There could be a wider benefit to road safety also, since research shows regular cyclists on average have fewer crashes when behind the wheel and make safer drivers than those who do not cycle. Meanwhile, the layout of many cycling facilities in Europe is also in question, with too many routes not meeting specifications for safety standards and clearly not having been designed by people who actually ride bicycles.

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