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ECF CEO Jill Warren’s key takeaways from Velo-city 2021 Lisboa

Blog ECF CEO Jill Warren’s key takeaways from Velo-city 2021 Lisboa
At the world cycling summit in Lisbon on 6-9 September, Jill Warren made it clear that there is no conceivable way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the European Green Deal or climate-neutral cities without significantly more cycling.
On behalf of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), we have truly enjoyed working with Mayor Fernando Medina and Deputy Mayor Miguel Gaspar and with the Municipality of Lisbon and EMEL on the 2021 edition of Velo-city that took place on 6-9 September.

We are grateful to our Lisbon partners for their continued support and hard work that have made this successful event happen under unprecedented circumstances.

What you have achieved for cycling in Lisbon is truly inspiring. You’ve gone from 3km of bike paths in 2001 to a network of about 155km today, and you’re aiming for 200km by the end of 2021.

You are progressing Cycle Diversity by making cycling more accessible to people of all ages and abilities, not only by building safe infrastructure but by enabling youngsters to cycle to school, by supporting measures to repair old bicycles to give them to those who need them and by providing purchase premiums for bicycles and cargo bikes.

Thank you for hosting Velo-city, the world cycling summit, at such an exciting time in your cycling development.

Key points and takeaways

There are many key points and takeaways from Velo-city 2021 Lisboa, but I will limit myself to just a few.

Firstly, it cannot be said enough: there is no conceivable way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the European Green Deal or climate-neutral cities without significantly more cycling.

We heard it at Velo-city from European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans: enabling significantly more cycling is a no-brainer investment. But the policy and decision-making brains have to put their money where their mouths are and actually commit to concrete plans and investments – now.

We heard it at Velo-city from DG MOVE Deputy Director-General Matthew Baldwin: “The cycling community should be less modest. You should push us more.” The European Cyclists’ Federation, Cycling Industries Europe and our cycling association allies all say “challenge accepted!”

We cannot afford to lose the opportunity and momentum for cycling that is right here, right now. But we could lose it, if powerful and entrenched interests continue to prevail and get more than their fair share in all the mobility budgets and plans that really matter.

We understand the principle of subsidiarity. But we also understand the principles of equity, fairness and a just transition. If it’s okay for billions of euros in EU funds to be earmarked for scrappage premiums and other incentives to purchase electric vehicles, then surely there is much more scope for incentives for cleaner, cheaper, less-congesting, smaller and healthier forms of e-mobility such as e-bikes.

And much more investment is needed – now – in safe cycling infrastructure to enable and encourage more people of all ages and abilities to cycle and to cycle more often. It is a no-brainer investment, and we have all the brains with experience and expertise who can help implement this. 750 of them joined us at Velo-city in Lisbon and a further 1,000 tuned in digitally.

Key recommendations for European policymakers

I urge European policymakers to give us the right policy frameworks, action plans and investments to make this happen as quickly as possible. For example:
  • An EU Urban Mobility Package that truly prioritises cycling as active, healthy and climate-friendly mobility.
  • Targets and benchmarks on: modal share for cycling; the kilometres and types of cycling infrastructure to be built (including bicycle parking); effective Vision Zero measures and indicators for reductions in road deaths and serious injuries; and requirements to adopt Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) in order to benefit from EU funding for urban mobility measures.  
  • There also needs to be more EU investments in truly green cycling tourism.
  • We also need systematic benchmarking and data collection on all of these things.

This list is by no means exhaustive!

Invest in cycling by investing in ECF

At ECF, we will continue to do our jobs as cycling advocates as best as we can. Good, solid, evidence-based advocacy and awareness raising require dedicated, passionate professionals and adequate resources. We have the dedicated, passionate professionals. But we don’t always have enough resources. We are very grateful to all those who support our work. To seize all the opportunities before us, we need more resources.

Given all the positive societal impacts that more and better cycling delivers – from carbon-emission reductions and better health to more liveable, equitable cities – we hope additional funders who identify with our cause can be persuaded to support the expansion of our important and urgent work and contribute to the lasting, positive change that people truly want. You won’t regret it.

Change is a key word associated with our next Velo-city conference in Ljubljana taking place in June 2022, and we all look forward to continuing the inspiring discussions that were sparked at Velo-city 2021 Lisboa.

Jill Warren is CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation. This article was adapted from her closing keynote speech at Velo-city 2021 Lisboa, which can be streamed along with all plenaries and sessions for one year. Digital tickets are available for sale for a limited time.

By Jill Warren,
23rd of September 2021