At the end of the year it is popular to look back on what we have achieved. Without any doubts Velo-City Vienna was the most thrilling event of this year for me. The cooperation with Niels Tørsløv of the City of Copenhagen in our presentation of 10 mistakes was very inspiring an demands a follow up of the different ways we deal with the success of bicycles in our cities. The most important occasion for my work however was the approval of the new bicycle policy for our region.
In December the board of the Region Utrecht (BRU) approved the policy and made some nice remarks. As I was one of the main writers of this policy, I’m quite happy that this milestone was passed before the end of the year. It means that next year I can start with the implementation of the vision in a broad range of projects about cycling. We will provide a proper translation of the summary of the policy paper, but on forehand I want to outline the most important pieces.
The bicycle policy was written in consultation of the municipalities and the province of Utrecht and focuses a 15 year term, until 2030. Since last policy (2004) cycling in the region has increased, despite ongoing urban sprawl and scaling of provisions. Increasing quality of bicycle parking facilities, the economic crisis and the successful introduction of the electric assist bicycle on longer distances were the base for more cycling. At some places cycling reaches its limits. Congestion at traffic lights, overcrowded bike paths and packed parking are visible results. The growth of bicycle use is a positive development, but to keep the region attractive for business and well-being of their inhabitants, more top quality bicycle facilities are required. Especially for short distances, the bicycle is a fast and reliable mode of transport. In addition, cycling is cheap (both for the employees and for employers), easy and healthy. Due to technical and social developments, such as the further acceptance of electric assist bicycles and cargo bikes, bicycle use will grow as will the need for improved bicycle infrastructure.
The Region’s ambition is to double the mode share in cycling for commuting, compared to 2011 in 2030. To make this possible the region wants to facilitate in and subsidize of improving the existing bicycle network on municipal roads. A second task is fixing missing links to solve barriers of canals, railroads and highways. The bicycle policy is also complementary to the public transport policy. As transport authority the Region is responsible for running busses and trams in the region. In the forthcoming years the network will be strengthened on the main branches to reduce costs and to make public transport a more attractive alternative for car use. In some cases this means the distance to and between bus stops will be enlarged, as a consequence bike racks at main bus lines can be a good addition. Also at train stations the role of the bicycle will become more important to provide chain mobility. Part of the policy is also an extended marketing and communication strategy, focusing on different target groups.
Funding and Organization
At this moment realization of the policy requires €261 million until 2030. Until 2020 € 56 million is available in existing programs on local and regional levels. As a surplus the Region wants to subsidize municipalities in total € 7 million for further investments. With the new policy the Region is ready for additional funding by national government and Europe to speed up implementation. In supporting municipal planning the Region will improve knowledge and data collection of cycling and build a bicycle transport model. In the third quarter of 2014 the implementation plan for the period 2015-2018 must be decided. This gives the municipalities and their politicians the option to embed their promises made during the local elections in coming spring. Also it gives me the opportunity to develop the bicycle transport model and calculate the benefits of cycling better.
In addition to my regular work in 2014 I have some pleasant events to look forward. I am invited for a seminar at Westminster University in January regarding cycling and transport policy modelling. Also my abstract for Velo-City Global in Adelaide is accepted and I have some invitations for lectures in Sweden this spring. All in all good opportunities to bring cycling as a means of transport a bit forward. Looking forward to see you on these occasions next year or to meet you on the internet.
My best wishes to you!