Cycling: The Way Ahead for Towns and Cities

European Commission
Publication date: 
January 1999

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From the Foreword

Every day European cities demonstrate that a reduction in the use of private cars is not just desirable but feasible. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bremen, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Ferrara, Graz and Strasbourg apply incentives that favour public transport, car-sharing and bicycles, along with restrictive measures on the use of private cars in their town centres.

These cities do not harm their economic growth or access to their shopping centres. In fact, they promote them because they understand that unbridled use of cars for individual journeys is no longer compatible with easy mobility for the majority of citizens.

Their approach is fully in line with the European Union’s international commitments regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and European legislation on air quality.This provides that local plans to manage and improve urban air quality have to be implemented and citizens have to be informed in the event of significant pollution.This has been the case for several years for ozone.The way in which cities (and subsequently major companies) organise their transport systems will therefore be a central concern in the years ahead, especially as each year the Commission will publish a list of the areas where air does not meet an acceptable level of quality.

It is in this context that I have decided to take the unusual step of approaching you directly as elected decision-makers for towns and cities of the European Union.The handbook Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities stems from the idea that the worst enemies of the bicycle in urban areas are not cars, but longheld prejudices.The handbook therefore corrects some of the prejudices connected with the use of the bicycle as a regular mode of transport in the urban environment. It also suggests some simple, inexpensive and popular measures, which could be implemented immediately. Certainly, the task is ambitious, but the essential thing is to take the first step because, while use of the bicycle is a choice for the individual, it is essential to launch the process by which your city builds on the initiatives and habits of some of your fellow citizens for a healthier urban environment.

The European Commission, as an employer itself, is continuing its efforts to reduce the impact of its activities on the urban environment of Brussels. In 1998, the cycling associations of Brussels singled out the Commission as the institution in Brussels which has done most to encourage its employees to use bicycles.

I hope you enjoy this handbook, and that it will encourage you to implement without delay its principal recommendations, if that is still necessary in your city.

European Commissioner with
responsibility for the environment