EU CYCLE project partners hosted on October 13th, a webinar at the European Week of Regions and Cities. In this crucial historic moment, the participants explored the possibility for public authorities to unlock funding from the EU for cycling initiatives. 

The return on investment of cycling is incredible. Cycling already contributes €90bn a year to the economic performance of Europe through its positive externalities. An integrated cycling strategy, as well as more and better investments, are essential to grow the potential benefits of cycling even more.

- Jill Warren, co-CEO, ECF

Where are funds available? 

Fabian Küster from European Cyclists' Federation (ECF) presented the various funding opportunities available for cycling at the European level. National and regional funds are the predominant way to achieve EU funding for cycling, in particular through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which “aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions”, and the Cohesion Fund (CF) which is specifically dedicated to Member States whose GDP per capita is less than 90% of the EU average.

What is needed? 

All governance levels are required to cooperate in order to unlock the full potential of these funds. Particularly important is to create a clear vision, with concrete targets of modal shift, and to translate this vision into a cycling strategy which estimates the cost required. This vision will then need to be translated into national and regional strategies.

The more explicit the reference to cycling the better. Outlining the challenges that can be addressed through cycling projects and investments makes it easier to claim the funds. Additionally, having clear indicators for the cycling objectives, including share of bicycle traffic in the modal split, the length of sections of bicycle infrastructure, and the expected number of users on that particular piece of infrastructure, helps proving the impact of cycling.

Networks and campaigns 

Creating networks and national/regional campaigns is a key step in unlocking the potential funding opportunities available. France is a good example of a country which translates its visions into strategies. The association Vélo & Territories, active in 11 of France’s 13 regions, assists in the development of partnership agreements with regions, national government and the EU. Agathe Daudibon, Chief Project Officer, underlined the necessity of understanding the contextual challenges and needs of the relevant players in creating a successful strategy.

It is important to define your arguments and wording at early stage, specifically how cycling will assist in answering the specific challenges. It is necessary to have a clear message. This clear message should be spread with publications through official letters and dedicated webpage on top of having specific social media campaign resulting in recognition

Unlocking Funds from Private Partnerships

Łukasz Wróbel, Representative of the Mayor of Białystok for cycling infrastructure, gave example of the city’s bike-sharing scheme, BiKeR. Facilitated and managed through a partnership with the private company Nextbike, in 2019 the scheme had 92,000 registered users (out of a population of 300,000). But the popularity of the scheme would not have been possible without the constant expansion of accompanying infrastructure, which now reaches 151km of separate bicycle paths.

Unlocking Funds from Bike Tourism

Ward Segers, Project Coordinator with Tourism Limburg, outlined the possibilities to unlock funding for and from bicycle tourism. Limburg is now considered to be a best practice of regional cycle tourism. It began with the development of the Schansen Route system 25 years ago, a simple network of bicycle paths based on the image of a metro system, with easy connections and crossings. With 2,000 km of path and over 3 mil users in 2019, the network still maintains quality as a core concept. And it has become a cyclist paradise in Belgium.

The full potential of cycling requires dedicated and increased investment, reported Magdalena Kolczyńska from ECF. To meet these needs, ECF together with the EU CYCLE project partners has created the soon-to-be published Integrated Cycling Planning Guide, gathering best practices and success stories from several countries. The new EU budget has the ambition to make Europe a pioneer of sustainable development and cycling fits perfectly in the ERDF 2021-27, particularly its policy objective 2 “for a greener, low-carbon Europe”, and policy objective 3, “transport and digital communication”. The recently announced National Recovery and Resilience Plans also holds huge potential in unlocking funding for cycling. To this aim, it is extremely important that regional and local authorities are aware of the possibilities and include explicit mentions of cycling into their programs. 

Watch the video of the full session here.