Promoting cycling in urban mobility with Jill Warren
As a child, Jill Warren of the European Cycling Federation thought of cycling as freedom. By making it easy to get from A to B — to visit friends or go to the public swimming pool — cycling increased her range, opening up the world. If she had her wish, all children would be given a bicycle and taught to ride, as habits picked up at a young age are more likely to stick.
Getting people to stick to a healthy, sustainable means of transport is one of the aims of the ECF, an umbrella organization for 60 cycling advocacy groups. With several ambitious high-level goals — like increasing cycling by 50% by 2030 while halving deaths and injuries due to cycling accidents — the organization is in search of political support and European funding that can support more cycling. Aiming for up to 15 billion Euros and 100,000 additional kilometers of cycling infrastructure across Europe by the end of the decade, the ECF has their work cut off for them.
“Cycling should be a prioritized and integral part of a sustainable mobility mix,” Warren told us on the Talking Transport Transformation podcast. Though changing the status quo is difficult, through investments in and prioritizing biking, local governments can do more to inspire people to choose two wheels over four.
“Policies and strategies drive active investments,” says Warren. She noted the example of Ireland, which, in their coalition agreement, prioritized cycling and walking in the budget. That has led to around one million Euros a day for use in expanding pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
“Mobility plans that foresee more cycling is a good way to ensure that investment is made,” she says.
Noting that higher quality public space is what makes cities more liveable, she says that city governments need to recognize that we want more active mobility. “Cities themselves have an enormous influence about what is done with their public space. Do you want to reserve space for cars, like parking lots, or more healthy, livable space, where people can enjoy it?”
While getting to that point takes political will and courage, cities across Europe are making great strides toward bettering active mobility choices. Cycling, too, is experiencing a boom after the pandemic revealed how quickly cities can provide space for bikes and the continuing climate emergency adds a feeling of urgency.
For Warren, though, cycling isn’t just an urban sport for getting from point A to B more quickly (although those direct routes are a major bonus). An avid cycler herself, she wishes more people would discover joy of leisure cycling. To hear which of the European Velo routes she most likes to bike, you’ll have to listen to the podcast interview for yourself.
This article is based on a conversation with Warren held as part of the TUMI podcast TTT.