Cillian O Boyle, Business Development Manager with Cycling Solutions Ireland, recently returned from Leipzig in Germany after attending the Velo-city conference. In his report below, he shares his experiences with Cyclist.ie of the latest edition of ECF’s Velo-city conference. As always, we encourage supporters of Cyclist.ie’s work to join up or make a donation so as to enable us to ramp up our cycling advocacy programme.
Velo-city is the world cycling summit, where advocates, cities, decision and policy makers, researchers and industry leaders meet to shape the future of cycling. As the annual flagship event of the European Cyclists’ Federation, Velo-city plays a valuable part in promoting cycling as a sustainable and healthy means of transport for all.
Like no other event, the conference offers a knowledge-exchange and policy-transfer platform to the more than 1400 Velo-citizens from over 60 countries attending, involved in the policy, promotion and provision for cycling, active mobility and sustainable urban development. Taking place under the theme #LeadingTheTransition, Velo-city 2023 Leipzig asked the inevitable question: What future do we want to live in?
Cycle Friendly Employer Scheme
Cycling Solutions Ireland (CSI), Ireland’s European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) certified cycle-friendly employer accreditors, were one of a number of Irish organisations represented at Velo-city in Leipzig. CSI were joined by the Department of Transport (DoT) in a programme discussion about the importance of cycle-friendly employer certification in the public sector. Carol Lodola of DoT gave a presentation on behalf of the Department.
L to R: Froso Christofides (European Cyclists’ Federation), Michael O’Boyle (CEO Cycling Solutions Ireland), Carol Lodola (Department of Transport)
Leipzig, Host City
Known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and state-of-the-art transport infrastructure, Leipzig was an ideal host city for Velo-city 2023. Attendees were provided with the use of Nextbikes from the TIER bike sharing scheme in Leipzig during the conference
Coming from a country that is still very car-centric, a few days spent in Leipzig opens up the mind to the possibilities available to cities that commit to shared mobility; or as Leipzig refers to it, the Environmental Alliance: walking, cycling and local public transport. The goal is to reach a 70% modal share of the environmental alliance (23% public transport, 23% cycling and 24% walking). In order to achieve this milestone, the city will invest more than 1.5 billion Euro in cycling, walking and public transport by 2030.
The city administration intends to create new cycling facilities on its main roads, expand bicycle parking facilities, build a bicycle parking garage at the main railway station and improve road maintenance on important cycle routes during the winter. A new last-mile logistic concept will also be implemented. This will see all deliveries destined for the city bundled outside the city centre and delivered with low-emission vehicles, such as cargo bikes.
New opportunities to capitalise on Leipzig’s week in the cycling spotlight were not wasted. Decision makers in Leipzig’s local government teamed up with STADTRADELN, a climate alliance organisation, who gathered data on the most used cycling routes by attendees throughout the conference. The resulting data will be used by urban planners to propose new cycle lanes in the city. At the time of writing, over 1,700 kilometres of cycling data had been gathered by STATDRADELN.
Screenshot of STATDRADELN data gathering of cycling journeys
The Netherlands: Lessons from a cycling Mecca
The Netherlands wasn’t always a fietsparadijs (“bicycle paradise”). As with their counterparts, post-war planners were carving out space for the car in their cities; demolishing buildings and filling in canals. Converging (road safety and oil supply) crises in the 1970s set them off in a different direction, but it required a great deal of experimentation, as well as a few high-profile failures. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that best practices were codified in national street design and road safety policies. The resulting principles have been a “game changer”, resulting in 20,000 kilometres of separated cycle paths—over half the existing network—in the past 25 years.
With fifty years of experience resulting in the highest levels of cycling on the planet, the Dutch are far from resting on their laurels. In fact, this success creates new pressures around space and speed in the city, with recent developments offering opportunities to build on it.
The five key learnings from Dutch experts at Velo-city 2023 were:
1) Start with a link, plan for a network: To provide for a maximum diversity of users, Dutch planners have learned to look beyond individual lanes, and think more holistically at the network level.
2) Don’t give up at the intersection: Knowing a network is only as good as its weakest link, and most collisions occur at these points, the Dutch-style “protected intersection” is a staple throughout the country.
3) The most important part of a bike plan is the car plan: As Dutch planners have discovered, measures that offer an attractive alternative to driving (“the carrot”) must be complemented with efforts to make driving indirect and inconvenient (“the stick”).
4) Design for the speed you want: When it comes to calming traffic, the reality is that engineering—not education or enforcement—is the biggest influence on the success of that scheme.
5) Use cycle tracks to feed mass transit (and vice versa): Rather than view cycling and mass transit as competitors, Dutch planners have learned to embrace them as allies, capturing their synergy in a virtuous circle of sustainable travel.
Velo-city Leipzig wound down with a flag hand-over to next year’s hosts – the Belgian city of Ghent. The final sign off for an excellent week was a post-event party at Leipzig’s Moritzbastei, one of the city’s oldest fortifications, which now doubles as a performance and cultural centre.
You would be forgiven for thinking Leipzig is an established city on the global conference scene, but this German city never had it easy – after German reunification, the Eastern city tumbled into decline, its population dropping to 437,000 in the mid-1990s. Since then, Leipzig has been reinventing itself at a rapid pace. The turn of the century, a pivotal period for the German city, saw Leipzig’s economy gather momentum, and the implementation of ambitious urban development policies saw people flooding back into the city. Today, its creative buzz and vibrant street life shape the image of a healthy, happy city.
A large Irish cohort could be found around the Moritzbastei on closing night – an encouraging sign that our own country is becoming increasingly alert to the benefits that cycling can bring, when urban development policies allow for it. If Leipzig can do it, anyone can.
Velo City 2024
For anyone interested in discovering the future of sustainable mobility in Europe, make sure to check out the plans for Velo-city Ghent 2024!
Cyclist.ie sends its thanks to Cillian for his report above. We also refer our readers to the excellent report from Katleen Bell Bonjean from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee on her experiences at Velo-city.