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Cycling could put Green Economy transition in motion

Policies that support cycling not only contribute to the fight against air pollution and greenhouse gases and boost health, but can also go a long way in creating jobs as part of the transition to a Green Economy, participants heard at a side event in Batumi. 

An estimated 435,000 cycling-related jobs could be created if 56 major cities across the pan European region were to replicate Copenhagen’s share of cycling as a mode of transport, revealed Jan Dusik, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe. 

Mr Dusik was presenting early findings from research undertaken by UNEP, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) on jobs  in green and healthy transport, with the study’s full version to be published later this year. 

Unlocking Green Economy potential

Ivonne Higuero, Chief of Section at UNECE’s Environment Division, stressed the need to support countries in their transition to a Green Economy and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals , in her opening remarks at the event. 

In his keynote speech, Graeme Maxton - Secretary General of the Club of Rome - noted that the traditional focus of economy on growth of gross domestic product  has not resulted in increased employment and  reduced poverty and inequality. Evidence exists that thinking on economic progress needs to shift towards increasing employment through greater efficiency, use of renewable energy sources and reduction of carbon emissions, he claimed, stressing that cycling is part of this transition. 

In terms of how cycling can be promoted, “policies like congestion pricing and fuel taxes could help governments and local authorities to invest more in cycling infrastructures,” underlined Manuel Marsilio, General Manager of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry. 

Cycling needs to be presented as both safe and fashionable so as to appeal to youths, stressed Jovana Dodos, Vice President of the European Environment and Health Youth Coalition. Nonetheless, "shifting to clean, environmentally conscious, efficient and affordable means of transport such as cycling requires a change of thinking rather than a change of generation," she underlined.

The need for greater awareness raising of benefits among the general public policy makers and alike – which can in turn spur investment - was emphasized by François André, Senior Attaché at the Belgian Federal Service for Health, the Food Safety Chain and the Environment. “Cycling policy should not be developed as a stand-alone issue but form part of a broader policy package as a tool allowing different but complementary objectives to be reached,” he underlined.

Having a national strategy for cycling combined with initial funding to induce additional investment can indeed be instrumental in increasing cycling levels, explained Günter Liebel, Director General at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. He highlighted Austria’s national Masterplan for Cycling and a national seed funding project, klima:aktiv mobil, through which a total of €210 million of investment in cycling has been leveraged.

These efforts to promote cycling need to be supported by the international recognition of cycling as a means of transport, added Holger Haubold of the European Cyclists' Federation during the discussion.

Study takes Danish example

Were the proportion of journeys made by bike in the Danish capital be mirrored in 56 cities in the region, not only would more direct jobs be created but various services would emerge, in turn generating further employment opportunities, as indicated in early findings from the forthcoming report. 

Data from the forthcoming study, titled  Riding towards the green economy: cycling and green jobs, indicates that if cycling became as popular in Paris as it is in the Danish capital, 13 360 additional jobs would be created in the city, participants heard at the side event.

Benefits are widespread

The need for sustainable transport that contributes to a cleaner environment and better human health and social cohesion led to the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) being set up.

"THE PEP has been contributing to the transition to a green economy by promoting green transport sector policies as well as alternative modes of mobility, such as cycling, to achieve green and healthy mobility and transport for sustainable livelihoods for all," Ms Higuero explained. 

Dr Matic, Coordinator for Environment and Health at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, pointed out that THE PEP is an excellent example of how three different sectors look at shared issues of today and tomorrow and create tools to engage partners and stakeholders to work together to achieve goals across the entire society.

The city of Batumi has been working on cycling promotion for some years, said the city’s Mayor Giorgi Ermakovi. Participants at the Ministerial Conference can for example see the results of a workshop that took place in 2010 under the THE PEP, following which a cycling route was built, he noted. 

The side event was sponsored by the Governments of Austria, France, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland, the European Environment and Health Youth Coalition, UNEP, UNECE and the WHO Regional Office for Europe. 

For more information, please visit: The PEP