Over half of European Union Member States are neglecting cycling in their post-pandemic recovery plans, missing out on billions of euros in economic and health benefits.
New analysis by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) of Member States’ National Recovery and Resilience Plans submitted to the EU show that only six are properly using their plans to seize upon the enormous recovery potential of cycling to boost green economic growth and jobs. According to a 2014 study, doubling cycling levels could lead to more than 1 million cycling-related jobs in Europe.
With the 30 April deadline for submitting Recovery Plans to the European Commission looming, leading voices in the European cycling industry and civil society are urging the remaining 21 EU Member States to prominently include cycling in their plans to help lift their economies, reduce transport CO2 emissions and safeguard the health of their citizens after more than a year of devastation wrought by the pandemic. The EU’s strengthened 2030 climate target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % calls for an even more radical shift in the mobility patterns of EU citizens.
Jill Warren, CEO of ECF, said: “Cycling emerged as the most resilient mode of transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling millions of EU citizens to stay active and healthy. More Europeans than ever are cycling because of new bicycle lanes and infrastructure in European cities. EU governments must now step up and sustain this positive momentum by including dedicated budget lines for cycling in their recovery plans.”
Germany’s absence is the most prominent among the EU countries that have yet to include cycling in their post-pandemic Recovery Plans. It has set aside €3.2 billion in purchasing premiums for electric and hybrid cars but nothing for e-bikes, despite Germany’s stated goal of becoming a cycling nation by 2030. Other notable countries that are behind include Spain, whose plan commits to creating sustainable, safe and connected mobility in urban areas but fails to include any explicit reference to cycling. Finland and Croatia are aiming to boost sustainable tourism in their plans but do not provide any place for cycling tourism.
Kevin Mayne, CEO of Cycling Industries Europe, said: “A lot of Europeans are purchasing bikes, especially e-bikes. In 2020, more than five million e-bikes were sold, almost four times the number of electric cars. And this is creating more jobs: half of companies surveyed by CIE have more staff today than in 2019, and 94% say they will add staff over the next two years. EU governments can take advantage of this massive economic growth potential by earmarking at least 10% of their recovery plan mobility budgets to support cycling. We need to create a level-playing field for cycling and other modes of transport.”
Six EU Countries Are Leading the Race
Belgium is in the lead in relative numbers, having budgeted €473 million, equal to 8% of its Recovery Plan, for cycling investments such as the construction of cycling highways in the northern region of Flanders and around Brussels. Italy is committing to build 1,770 km of cycling paths and will invest €600 million in reinforcing cycling mobility. Romania will invest €120 million to develop 3,000 km of touristic cycle routes and complete the EuroVelo 6 long-distance cycling route. Slovakia has budgeted €100 million to build 200 km of high-quality cycling paths. Latvia has included the development of cycling infrastructure for daily mobility in its Recovery Plan. France is earmarking €100 million to finance its national cycling plan and is also set to introduce a scheme for people to scrap their cars in exchange for hefty premiums to purchase e-bikes in its new climate law.
Manuel Marsilio, General Manager of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry, said: “A total of almost €1.3 billion has been committed so far through the National Recovery and Resilience Plans to improve the cycling experience across the EU. Nevertheless, this is still modest compared to what we could see if more member states committed to cycling in these Recovery Plans. EU countries need to recognise that cycling investments are the best way to structurally improve people’s mobility patterns while creating green jobs and boosting the economy.”