Saturday, February 4, 2012

What the mayor doesn't always tell you about bike modal share - UITP and ECF go for higher modal shares, separately

Part Four of this Series, which started with a feature in Cycling Mobility no. 4.  For Part One - which gives an overview - click here.  For Part Two -  about immigrant-focused cycle training - click here. For Part Three - about "Pure" and "Real" bike modal shares, click here.

Alain Flausch became the new Secretary General of UITP on 1 January. During the ten years he was the head of STIB/MVIB (the PT operator in Brussels) ridership increased by about 100%.

In May 2009 at its Velo-city conference in Brussels, the European Cyclists' Federation (ECF), presented the “Charter of Brussels”. Signatories – local authorities – of the Charter would, among other targets, pledge to increase cycling modal share to at least 15% by 2020, and beyond that if that figure was already achieved.

In June 2009 the International Union of Public Transport (UITP) initiated its “PTx2” strategy which aims to double public transport (PT) share worldwide by 2025. Rather than have individual signatories of a pledge, which with UITP – much larger than ECF but still its European-level counterpart – would be public transport operators or local authority members, it is focused instead on recognizing the efforts of its members in increase their share of local mobility.

In their documents for their individual initiatives, ECF and UITP – the latter has a very extensive explanation of how, for example, how “keeping the share of walking and cycling at a stable level would allow us to decouple the growth of mobility in urban areas from the growth of its societal and environmental costs” - recognize that, respectively, PT and cycling are complementary transport modes. However, the ECF policy person with whom I spoke had never heard of PTx2 and it was not clear to me if their counterpart at UITP had heard of the Charter. This was revealed to me when I asked if increasing cycling at the expense of public transport or vice-versa was still a success. Both spokespeople answered in the negative, but only in the general sense: These strategies were created independently and my sense was that these people had never met anyone in an official capacity from the other org. (Their current offices in Brussels are 15-20min. or so apart by bike or PT).

When asked if a better goal than individual organization targets might be to instead commit reduce private urban automobile transport by 50% - a round number, perhaps a marketable one – by the most appropriate means, both spokespeople seemed to agree; the ECF spokesperson also appreciated my suggestion that they should work together in a more concrete way.

At the very end of discussions with both spokespeople I received a press release about the new Cycling Industry Club initiative of ECF aimed at uniting the bicycle manufacturing industry and non-profit organizations, similar to Bikes Belong in the USA. The press release spoke of a goal of “tripling the number of cyclists in Europe by 2020”. I was then put in the awkward position of telling the spokesperson at ECF about something they had never heard of initiated by a colleague of theirs, and despite a specific request by press time (in autumn 2011) it was not explained to me how this fit into the Charter of Brussels or if it, in fact, made it partially obsolete.

It is perhaps obvious that easy to remember figures and terms such as “15%”, “doubling” and “tripling” are, indeed, for marketing purposes, but it seems clear that a common goal from public transport and cycling plus walking or telecommuting actors would make more sense -- this would be best achieved by more joint strategizing and activities of the involved organizations.

As it has been a few months since I did these interviews I am happy to amend this article in order to reflect any changes related to the discussion.