L-R: Alain de Muyser, BeNeLux Union Secretary-General; François Bausch, Luxembourg Deputy PM, Minister of Mobility & Public Works; Frans Weekers, BeNeLux Union Deputy Secretary General; Michel-Etienne Tilemans, BeNeLux Union Deputy Secretary General; Credit: MMTP

On Monday 28 November 2022, the BeNeLux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) launched a joint bicycle roadmap containing new initiatives aimed at promoting the use of bicycles and serving as a model for the European Union (EU).

This roadmap is the result of one of the action points of the 2020 BeNeLux cycling declaration, a ministerial declaration which several European countries joined and which was adopted in a European declaration on cycling in 2022.

The bicycle roadmap is aimed at encouraging the public to use bicycles more often. The positive effects of this are demonstrated in a study entitled "Cost-benefit analysis of cycling in the BeNeLux and North Rhine-Westphalia", carried out at the request of the two regions. Each kilometre cycled represents a net benefit for the whole region, with, in particular, a positive effect on health and the reduction of traffic jams.

The analysis showed, among other things, that if 100,000 people cycled to work over a distance of 5 km, they would generate a total benefit of €196 million per year (they would be less sick and more productive at work). If they took this route by car, it would generate a total cost of €203 million per year (maintenance costs, costs of traffic jams, air pollution, accidents, etc.). Moreover, if 1% of all kilometres travelled by car in the two regions were replaced by kilometres travelled by bicycle, a net gain of €13.6 billion could be achieved, according to the study. This includes €10 billion in health benefits (productivity gains, reduced social security costs, reduced risk of serious illness and death) and some €3 billion in economic benefits related to reduced traffic congestion. The study therefore concluded that investing in cycling was investing in public health, and this is partly what the roadmap aims to do.

In addition to a safe and comfortable infrastructure, the joint roadmap pays attention to the sharing and development of cycling figures for politics, the establishment of communication campaigns to promote cycling and other initiatives that the two regions will undertake together in the coming years to promote cycling and act together within the EU. Concrete examples include the deployment of training modules in education to promote the profession of bicycle repairer, for example. Together with the sector, they also want to launch campaigns to highlight the daily use of bicycles during major bicycle races. They plan to encourage self-contained cycling eco-tourism by ensuring that all cycling networks are clearly and well connected. In addition, both regions will strive to ensure adequate connectivity with public transport.

As the regions are closely linked, special attention will be given to improving cross-border cycling routes through greater standardisation of cycling infrastructure, better coordination and communication.

The developments, the specific challenges as well as the opportunities that cargo bikes and speed pedelecs represent for politics and space will be the subject of recommendations.

In addition, the roadmap commits the countries to adopting common positions at EU level on certain cycling-related issues, such as parking standards for bicycles.

Luxembourg's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch, commented: "Currently, 50% of journeys made are less than 5 km. Thus, it is necessary to systematically integrate the bicycle into all road projects and make the bicycle a fully-fledged individual mode of transport while guaranteeing a continuous and secure cycling infrastructure across the country. This mode of transport should experience the greatest growth in the years to come".

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, added: "The BeNeLux is playing a pioneering role in terms of bicycle policies. In Belgium, for example, we are fully committed to the train-bike combination by guaranteeing a minimum of eight bicycle spaces on the trains. I expect such a serious and ambitious policy from Europe. During the Belgian presidency of Europe, the objective is to make 2024 the European year of the bicycle. Faced with climate, energy and health challenges, the bicycle is part of the solution".

The Secretary-General of the BeNeLux Union, Alain de Muyser, noted: "The future is to develop the infrastructure for cyclists, to allow more safety for users, with more support for public authorities, and more sustainability for all. Through its action, which will always be cross-border, the BeNeLux draws attention to the avenues to follow and encourages a European approach, for the benefit of all, by placing the citizen at the centre of its approach".