On 28 January 2021, the Policy Learning Platform hosted the second webinar of the Cycling Cities trilogy, dedicated to infrastructure development for cycling. Following this webinar, the Platform received a question concerning 'strategies that members of the public could use to request national government to increase funding for active modes of transport'. Marco Citelli and Katharina Krell, Thematic Experts for low-carbon economy provide the following answer, also based on an exchange with the  speakers of the webinar, including recommendations and resources. 

Meredith Glaser (Urban Cycling Institute – University of Amsterdam) provided a response based on research with numerous local governments, a successful approach to increase funding towards cycling infrastructure would be composed of the following four elements:

  1. Use carrot/stick measures: An example in this regard would be the redefinition of real estate development policies so as to allocate a part of the revenues from urban development and planning fees to sustainable transport, since the two areas are intertwined;
  2. Pool resources with a variety of stakeholders: An example of an action would be creating the conditions for inter-governmental coordination between the department of transport and public transit providers, the business community, major employers, and elected/appointed officials;

  3. Demonstrate that the public does want these changes through polling and other data-gathering techniques;

  4. Link the cycling infrastructure to other on-going transport projects like major public transit projects or (existing) city goals and adopted policies (e.g. reducing traffic deaths, congestion, increasing accessibility, equity goals, usually laid out in strategic mobility plans, SUMPS or other sustainability policy documents).

Rose Power (Southern Regional Assembly, Ireland) recommended, prior to lobbying the national level to increase funding to boost active modes of transport, to make sure that a dedicated budget line exists to this end also at local and regional levels. Otherwise, any attempt to push for a policy change risk to be carried out in vain. It is only when a specific budget for active modes of transport is present at all levels (i.e. local, regional and national) that they can be effectively promoted. This is presently the case in Ireland where, thanks to pressures from all levels, 20% of the national transport budget is ring fenced for walking and cycling. 

Isabel Garnika (Environmental Studies Centre of Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council) stressed how the problem of scarce financial resources may be common to many local governments, as they must decide on a yearly basis how to allocate them to cover a plurality of projects in many different areas. She suggested that a good strategy to ensure that the necessary resources are made available at local level to increase the modal share of walking and cycling would be to actively seek the engagement of all stakeholders with an interest in this matter. There are many ways that stakeholders could use to lobby, for instance, their local city council. One effective tool, when available, is certainly the so-called ‘participatory budget’. In recent years this instrument turned out to be very supportive of sustainable mobility in Vitoria-Gasteiz. It is precisely in the framework of the participatory budget that citizens were able to secure, among others, the funding for implementing the network of secured bike parking spaces and expanding bike lanes in the city.

Good practices

In addition, the following good practices can also help you to find ways to stimulate increased funding for active modes of transport: 

Knowledge Hub

  • Unlock funds for cycling in your region. This article gives flash information on the resources that have been made available for cycling by the EU in the context of the new Multiannual Financial Framework adopted for the period 2021-2027 as well as under the Recovery and Resilience Facility. It includes a link to the country specific guidelines developed by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) for the EU-27. 

  • Policy brief on Cycling Cities. This policy brief explores various initiatives in Interreg Europe and at the European level and could offer you further insights on how to foster urban cycling in your region. 

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Image credit: Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash