On the 17th and 18th of May 2021, the fifth UNECE/WHO pan-European ministerial conference on transport, health and the environment took place. With over 850 registered participants, it was the largest such conference since the program was conceived. One result of which was the ‘Vienese Declaration’, the first multi-regional masterplan for cycling. Austria will become a pan-European competence center for active mobility.
Austria invited the participants to the conference under the motto “building a better future – setting the course for a new, clean, safe, healthy and integrated mobility”. Over 850 people from 41 countries took part, among which 46 ministers and secretaries of state, discussing options and possibilities to form a cleaner, more healthy mobility. (Press release)
Vienese declaration: Pan-European Cycling Masterplan
A central element and goal of this year’s conference was the adoption of the “Vienese Declaration” the focus of which is the first pan-European masterplan for the promotion of cycling. This plan, initiated by Austria and France, aims to create cross-border active mobility initiatives. The aim is to double pan-European cycle mobility by the year 2030. The Radkompetenz members BMK – Klimaaktiv mobil and Verracon played key roles in the formation of the plan. A downloadable copy of the Pan-European Masterplan is available here.
Further elements of the Viennese Declaration include: recommendations for environmentally friendly and sustainable transport, political recommendations for eco-driving, conclusions and recommendations from the handbook of sustainable transport and city planning, as well as current facts and figures describing the development of environmentally friendly transportation.
“With a transport revolution, we can achieve our climate goals. Active mobility not only saves the environment, but the positive health effects and the creation of green jobs is clear to see. For these reasons, we are glad to support the Viennese Declaration and the creation of the first pan-European masterplan for the promotion of cycling. I am proud that Austria is playing such a leading role. In this spirit, we forge ahead in the creation of a pan-European ‘THE PEP’ competence center for active mobility.” – Leonore Gewessler, Minister for environmental protection, energy, mobility, innovation and technology.
What are the goals of the Masterplan?
The ‘THE PEP’ member states have set themselves the goals of creating national cycling strategies, encouraging the implementation of active mobility infrastructure and anchoring cycling in diverse political branches such as health politics and land-use planning. Besides the need for the introduction of cycle-friendly frameworks for regulatory bodies, an intensification of the building of cycling infrastructure has been called for. This should serve to raise infrastructure standards to an internationally high level. The priority of cycling is to be raised in other areas of politics such as health politics and planning in order that it is viewed as an equal and sustainable form of transport. This in turn will allow for adequate budgets to be allocated for the effective promotion of cycling and in order to make use of the positive synergy created between cycling, health and the environment.
A detailed list of the recommendations of the masterplan:
Beginning on Chapter 4, page 33, eleven elements are defined which can and must be implemented for the successful growth and development of cycle traffic. The results of these will depend on the ambition and commitment of each participating nation, however the recommendations provide a broad basis. This is recognized in the introduction: “Each country can choose those most applicable to its needs based on its administrative system.”
1) Develop and implement a national cycling policy, supported by a national cycling plan.
A systematic plan, adopted internationally, will help national and local stakeholders streamline their efforts to promote cycling in order to address the aforementioned issues.
Training (capacity-building) for the main stakeholders; establishment of a network of stakeholders; and appointment of a national cycling officer.
Establish a national knowledge centre or “bicycle academy” for the training of professionals and enhancement of skills.
2) Improve the regulatory framework for cycling promotion
National authorities might adopt the good practices of other countries: steps taken in order to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
Types of vehicles such as cargo bicycles, delivery tricycles, handcycles and electrically assisted cycles offer a wide range of possibilities.
Many traffic laws and guidance documents still lack regulations designed to promote cycling and increase the safety of cyclists. Rules and principles that have proved effective should be considered for adoption by ECE and WHO member States.
A divided infrastructure increases cyclists’ perception of safety and may attract more people to cycling.
3) Create a user-friendly cycling infrastructure
In many countries, existing design standards do not reflect cyclists´ needs or ensure a coherent, attractive cycling network; a trans-European cycling network with a consistent interlinked structure should be created.
National routes as the backbone of the network, regional and local routes linking communities.
Through a coordinated approach involving ECE and WHO/Europe member States, ECE should support the development of a trans-European cycling network based on official national cycle routes and EuroVelo networks and incorporating urban networks and regional cycle routes.
Minimum infrastructure quality standards that ensure the coherence, directness, safety, comfort and attractiveness of cycling networks should be adopted at the highest possible level and, at a minimum, as a condition for all projects financed by states, the European Union or international financial institutions.
4) Provide sustainable investment and efficient funding mechanisms
Investment in infrastructure and promotion is needed (see recommendation 5.6). However, cycling is rarely valued as an equal mode of transport or included in national investment plans. Ensuring the allocation of sufficient budgetary resources should be an integral part of the development of national cycling plans (S 38).
Establish close cooperation with international financial institutions in order to ensure funding.
Considering the impact of and on cycling should be standard procedure in cost-benefit analyses of transport projects and should include transport, environment and health impacts.
5) Include cycling in the planning processes and facilitate multimodality
All relevant technical details should be provided in cycling planning guidelines, manuals and design standards, while ensuring flexibility in order to take local, regional and national circumstances into account
Consider cycling during spatial planning and incorporate it into building regulations
In order to facilitate bicycle transport, public transport vehicles should be able to carry bicycles comfortably and affordably. A smooth transfer between the bicycle network and the platform should be ensured by ramps, special staircases or elevators.
Multimodality should be facilitated by providing secure and convenient bicycle parking at public transport stations as well as services such as public bicycle sharing schemes.
Multimodal transportation agencies should be established.
6) Promote cycling through incentives and mobility management
Tax benefits, Monetary incentives are a powerful tool that can change behaviour and enhance cycling’s status.
Provide communities, companies and consumers with financial support for the purchase of bicycles (e.g. electric or cargo).
Campaigns to promote cycling, for both daily and touristic purposes are a necessary part of efforts to create a cycling culture. Mobility management offers a wide range of instruments designed to promote cycling and other sustainable modes of transport by including demand management for car use and changing travellers’ attitudes and behaviour. At the core of mobility management are “soft” measures, such as information.
7) Improve health and safety
Regular cycling has significant health benefits. Strengthen awareness among health professionals and build their capacity to advocate cycling.
The health-related benefits of cycling should be promoted widely through formal and informal education at all educational stages, from early childhood. Ministries of health and education should include the health benefits of cycling.
Improving road safety for cyclists requires a holistic approach and should be integrated into road safety policies.
8) Improve cycling statistics for use in efficient monitoring and benchmarking
Assessing the benefits of cycle use requires the systematic collection of statistical data. A comparable, reliable statistical database for the pan-European region is a prerequisite for the monitoring and benchmarking of cycling promotion.
HEAT can be used to estimate the value of the reduced mortality resulting from regular walking or cycling. The tool is designed to help urban planners, transport authorities and health practitioners to make the case for new investment in active mobility and quantify the economic value.
9) Promote cycling tourism
Cycle tourism contributes more than € 44 billion per year to the economy of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland combined, in addition to the related environmental and societal benefits. (EU 2012, S 47)
Establish national cycling tourism coordination centres.
Adopt and implement national guidelines for the signalization of cycle route networks.
10) Make use of new technology and innovation
Innovative features such as travel and journey planners, data collection sensors and electric mobility have become available for cyclists as well.
Technological development has accelerated and new types of bicycles, similar vehicles and tools that support cycling.
Governments can play an important role in promoting and funding innovation in bicycles and bicycle infrastructure.
An example of a helpful infrastructure innovation is the rain sensor on traffic lights to give cyclists priority when it rains.
Introduce open standards for data exchange and use smart data to improve cycling conditions.
The issue of last-mile logistics for e-commerce and home shopping is essential to the sustainability of cities and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
11)Promote cycling for a more resilient transport system
The COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic. The pandemic strongly affected societies and their economies, causing unplanned changes, including to mobility and transport.
a) Provision of physical distancing while travelling;
b) Changing travel patterns, with many people and children practising teleworking or distance learning due to lockdown restrictions, therefore meeting their daily needs close to home;
c) Partial substitution of public transport.
260 Billion euros in Economic benefits if implemented
The Viennese Declaration sets a course for CO2 neutral, health-promoting, efficient and safe transport modalities by laying out a clear pan-European strategy. Models predict that a doubling of cycling in the ‘THE PEP’ region would equate to an 8 million ton reduction of CO2 production by the year 2030 and that the costs of air and noise pollution would be drastically reduced. Furthermore, 30,000 early deaths caused by lack of exercise would be prevented Europe-wide. 85 billion euros are predicted to be saved by preventative health measures and reductions in sick-days as well as 7.9 billion euros in costs as a result of car accidents.
Job creation is another element whose positive effects are clearly presented in the Viennese Declaration. The cycling economy currently sustains 750,000 jobs. This figure would increase by 400,000 alone in the infrastructure sector if the planned doubling of cyclists is successful whilst also contributing 3.5 billion euros more to the cycling economy. In total, the economic benefits of cycling and related cycling infrastructure would equate to 260 billion euros per year.
Austria to become pan-European competence centre for active mobility
Building on its current know-how and demonstrating firm implementation of the Viennese Declaration, Austria is to become a leader in the development and demonstration of creative initiatives, best practice and knowledge communication amongst the ‘THE PEP’ members.
About THE PEP – Transport Health Environment Pan European Programme
THE PEP is a unique three-sector program of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Economic Commission and the Unitied Nations. It links the transport, health and environmental sectors of 56 countries. Every five years ministers meet to set milestones for development in areas such as health, transport and the environment, facilitating interdisciplinary cooperation at the highest European level. The fifth THE PEP high-level conference in Vienna was held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Austria is one of the leading members of THE PEP.
Konferenzwebseite THE PEP Vienna 2021: thepepvienna2021.org
Website THE PEP Sekretariats (EN, FR, RU): thepep.unece.org
Wiener Deklaration: PDF
Pan-Europäischer Masterplan Radfahren: PDF
Fotos: Peter Burgstaller, Christian Fürthner, BMK, VELLO, Stadt Berlin