Toxic air pollution can be reduced through more cycling according to the “ECF”, the European Cyclists’ Federation. The ECF urged European Union members states to set up National Cycle Investment Funds ahead of the Ministerial Summit on Air Quality.
Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Environment, invited Environment Ministers from Czechia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom to present, at the Air Quality Minister Brussels Summit on 30 January “additional adequate steps” that will deliver a reduction in air pollution and improvements in air quality “as soon as possible” and “not within 10-12 years”. Member States that fail to present adequate new initiatives at that meeting, will be taken to the European Court of Justice.
The European Cyclists’ Federation and these countries’ members associations, sent a letter on Friday to Commissioner Vella and the Environmental Ministers of the 9 countries mentioned, urging them to propose concrete cycling measures to comply with EU law on clean air.
Dr Bernhard Ensink, Secretary General of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) stated: “Motorised transport is among the main culprits for air pollution in urban centres. While the European Commission initiated the European Mobility Week as early as 2002, about half of all car trips continue to be under 5 km, and 2/3 under 10 km. These are distances that could be easily shifted to (e-) cycling if conditions were safe and attractive, with an immediate impact on air quality.”
Recommendations from the ECF, and its 80 members across more than 40 countries, to Member States include:
- Setting up a National Cycle Investment Fund. It needs to be equipped with annual investments equal to at least 10 Euro per person and used to co-fund local and regional cycle projects, such as cycle highway projects and other measures;
- Introduce or extend a national support scheme for the purchase of conventional and electric bicycles (L1e-A), the latter similar to schemes given to e-cars in a number of countries, and/or set up tax-free allowance schemes for cycling to work;
- Frame national support and coordination to cycling in a systematic manner, by developing and implementing a national cycling strategy.
Investments in cycling will not just reduce air pollution and improve air quality and save thousands of lives, but will also generate enormous public health benefits through physical activity. A recent EU-wide study estimated that if 167 European cities upgraded their bicycle infrastructure network and achieved a cycling mode share of 24.7%, over 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided annually.
The premature death of 400,000 citizens across the EU, caused by air pollution, is unacceptable. Compared with politically highly controversial solutions, such as driving bans for diesel cars or the retrofitting of diesel particulate filters, investments in cycling enjoy strong popular support, are easy to implement and hence would show almost immediate effect.
ECF Advocacy Director, Adam Bodor commented: “Although many national governments have started to support cycling over the past 10 – 15 years, now is the time to step up efforts! Despite impressive success stories in some individual cities, cycle use remains stagnant on a national level in most Member States and by extension in the EU.”
The ECF has long campaigned internationally for countries to implement a national cycling strategy. They are aware that their motto of “encouraging more people to cycle more often” has the potential to unlock socio-economic benefits worth billions of Euros.
The EU Cycling Strategy that was developed in 2017 includes numerous recommended actions at national and European levels on how to support cycling. The ECF invites the European Commissioner and National Ministers for Environment to use this publication as a source of inspiration for their mutual discussion on January 30 on how to improve ambient air quality. It would mean that governments would at last take the essential action against air pollution that blights our cities. And air pollution is having a devastating effect on climate change.