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Cerema’s recommendations for successful cycling

This article was originally published here.

Local and national governments across Europe – if not the globe – are seeking to increase the share of trips taken by bike. From cutting carbon emissions to reducing congestion and supporting healthier living, pedal power offers a huge array of benefits for cities and their residents.

Recently we have seen some incredible progress:

  • Cyclists outnumbered drivers this year in London;
  • In Paris the Seine has been transformed into a cycle friendly district;
  • In Lisbon the ‘cycle train’ is supporting children and their families cycle safely.

However, change on the ground is often complex. Despite significant advances, in many cases prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities are far behind their modal shift goals and struggling to bridge the gap.

Radical transformations in urban and peri-urban road networks are now critical in order to make cycling more appealing to exis­ting and future travellers.

To support municipalities in achieving this, Cerema, a French public agency for developing and capitalising on public expertise in the fields of planning, regional cohesion, and ecological and energy transition, has produced a detailed guide to ‘infrastructural adaptations and recommendations for their implementation’.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for cities- and regions- when it comes to cycling infrastructure and services,” says Andréia Lopes Azevedo, POLIS Network’s Active Travel and Health Working Group Coordinator.

“A new cycle lane which works for Bologna, may not be right for Groningen; a bike share scheme which is successful in La Rochelle’s condensed city centre, may not work in London’s larger proportions. Progress means taking a tailored approach, and understanding different social, geographical and political contexts.”

Why is this needed?

Cycling is an efficient transport solution with proven individual and collective benefits. Many European countries have made this form of mobility a central feature of their urban development strategies. The key to achieving a massive uplift in cycling is to encourage a modal shift away from car transport, by facilitating safe cycling whilst also restricting car use.

However, this is often a complex process, requiring comprehensive behaviour change and a cross-disciplinary approach which combine infrastructural adaptations such as cycle lanes, new traffic flows, slower speed streets, and adapted intersections.

In an effort to demonstrate the wide variety or actions available to municipal planners, architects and policymakers, Cerema’s guide examines:

  • measures to build efficient cycling infrastructures, reclaiming space from cars;
  • the general trend for traffic calming measures;
  • limitations on motorised through-traffic in residential neighbourhoods;
  • development of comfortable pedestrian areas to ward off potential conflicts.

The cycling framework plan is the core planning tool for ensuring that routes are continuous and suitably meshed. Versions of this plan can be produced at local, department/county, regional, national and European scales.

What do cities need to consider?

The notebook supports decision makers and planners with key actions including the choice between segregation and sharing when developing cycle lanes.

“Three main criteria must be considered in parallel, before choosing whether cyclists and motorists should share a particular space: the volume of motor traffic, the actual speed of travel, and the desired cycle traffic,” say the authors.

Traffic circulation is also given specific focus and the notebook explores how traffic flows can be adapted to support cycling, while minimising confusion for drivers and creating cohesion between modes.

The framework also examines intersections, where user interactions and potential conflicts are frequently concentrated. Advice includes:

  • Mutual visibility must be ensured on the approach to the junction, in particular by removing obstacles.
  • Imposing tight bends on motor vehicles helps to control their speed during turning movements.
  • Easily-read junctions give users an accurate, readily-understood representation of the behaviour required of them, in terms of speed, trajectory, priority schemes, etc

Financial investments are critical

Cerema advise that the plan may be produced as part of a broader mobility planning approach, and may for example be the subject of a concrete measure in a simplified mobility plan, or a regional plan for planning, sustainable development and territorial equality.

The framework plan also includes a multi-year investment plan, governing the actual implementation of the planned improvements.

Indeed, as the European Cyclist Federation (ECF) asserts in their advice to cities for boosting cycling, cycling is a low-cost transport mode, but it still requires sustained financial investment. The Netherlands, for example, has on average invested €35 per capita in cycling annually over many years, with cities like Groningen and Utrecht leading the way here.

“For cycling to play a greater role as part of a just transition, it must be treated as a fully-fledged mode of transport and given the priority it deserves in terms of policies, budgets, and road space,” ECF’s CEO, Jill Warren told POLIS’ Leadership Summit last month.

Cerema will be exploring this topic further at the “Accessibility and Connectivity of the 15-minute-city”, a conference dedicated to issues of accessibility and connectivity, especially in the context of 15-minute-city urban model, for both goods and people.

Adapting to size and geography

Given their smaller size, Small and Medium sized cities have a unique opportunity to expand their active travel infrastructures, and encourage a major modal shift away from private car travel. They are in fact, by their very nature, “15-minute cities”.

Johanne Collet from Cerema joined POLIS’ recent Small and Medium sized city meeting in La Rochelle to work with cities from Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and others to explore the options available, and how these may be adapted to suit their specific geographical and social contexts.

Indeed, La Rochelle, a city on the West coast of France has radically enhanced their cycling provisions, with many lessons for others. Now hosting an extensive bike share system and numerous bike lanes which connect the city centre and areas beyond the core, bike counters in the city how count thousands of cyclists passing each day.

Despite the differences cities and regions coming together to discuss and exchange will always support them in moving forward by learning from one another,” says Azevedo.

While many may look to the Netherlands, where cities like Groningen, Emmen and Eindhoven have achieved unparalleled shares in cycling, cities across Europe such as Bologna, Vic, Strovolos and others are rapidly catching up – often in very different, but effective ways.

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