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How cycling contributes to the goals of the TEN-T

Tuesday, November 17, 2020
The ECF is advocating for the inclusion of EuroVelo and cycling into the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). In this article, we highlight how cycling contributes to the TEN-T objectives of cohesion, efficiency, sustainability and increased user benefits when it comes to transport within the EU.

The TEN-T is the EU’s flagship transport policy. It is a network of roads, railway lines, inland waterways, maritime shipping routes, ports, airports, and railroad terminals in Europe. With its TEN-T policy, the EU aims to close gaps, remove bottlenecks and technical barriers, as well as to strengthen social, economic and territorial cohesion. The current TEN-T policy is based on “Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network”.

Cycling contributes significantly to the “Objectives of the trans-European transport network”, as laid down in Article 4 of the current regulation. It states that the TEN-T “shall strengthen the social, economic and territorial cohesion of the Union and contribute to the creation of a single European transport area which is efficient and sustainable.” The TEN-T shall also increase the benefits for its users and support inclusive growth.

TEN-T regulation, Article 4 How do EuroVelo and cycling contribute to this objective?
“The trans-European transport network shall demonstrate European added value by contributing to the objectives laid down in the following four categories:
(a) cohesion through:

i. accessibility and connectivity of all regions of the Union, including remote, outermost, insular, peripheral and mountainous regions, as well as sparsely populated areas;
The EuroVelo network connects the most remote, outermost, insular, peripheral and mountainous regions, as well as sparsely populated areas. Bringing cyclists to remote areas and linking these with urban centres is a major strength of the EuroVelo network
ii. reduction of infrastructure quality gaps between Member States; The EuroVelo network provides quality and planning requirements in Member States with less experience regarding cycling infrastructure. The EuroVelo Management Team offers standards and constantly cooperates with its partners to keep improving the routes, especially in those areas with more potential for improvement.
iii. for both passenger and freight traffic, interconnection between transport infrastructure for, on the one hand, long-distance traffic and, on the other, regional and local traffic; (…) EuroVelo stimulates the development of national, regional, and local cycle networks, serving as a backbone for such networks and providing a quality benchmark. Electric-power-assisted bicycles, cargo bikes and the development of cycle highways will contribute to cross-linking TEN-T infrastructure and urban/local cycling networks. The growing range of everyday cycling will make the continuation of urban routes into the suburbs more and more important.
(b) efficiency through:

i. the removal of bottlenecks and the bridging of missing links, both within the transport infrastructures and at connecting points between these, within Member States' territories and between them;
Especially when it comes to land transport, parallel cycling infrastructure such as cycle highways can release capacity for long-distance motorised transport. Cycling also plays an important role in intermodal cross-border travel, for instance through widening the catchment area of rail travel.
ii. the interconnection and interoperability of national transport networks; Many cycle route networks already have cross-border links, especially in urban areas located close to national borders.
iii. optimal integration and interconnection of all transport modes; This is only possible if cycling is included in the design and implementation of TEN-T road, rail, harbour, and airport projects. Otherwise, elements of the TEN-T network often function as a barrier and obstacle to the development of active mobility in cities and regions that are investing in cycling, for instance by dividing existing cycle paths.
iv. the promotion of economically efficient, high-quality transport contributing to further economic growth and competitiveness; The return on investment into cycling developments is much higher than for motorised-traffic roads mostly because of the benefits from congestion reduction, public health, and CO2 reduction. This is even true for high-quality, high-capacity cycling infrastructure such as cycling highways.
v. efficient use of new and existing infrastructure; (…) Cycling infrastructure can accommodate higher number of users and increase capacity in urban areas where the TEN-T corridors face challenges in terms of limited space.
(c) sustainability through:

i. development of all transport modes in a manner consistent with ensuring transport that is sustainable and economically efficient in the long term; ii. contribution to the objectives of low greenhouse gas emissions, low-carbon and clean transport, fuel security, reduction of external costs and environmental protection; iii. promotion of low-carbon transport with the aim of achieving by 2050 a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, in line with the relevant Union CO2 reduction targets;
This is only achievable if active transport modes such as cycling are strengthened. Cycling produces no CO2 and consumes no resources once the bikes and infrastructure are built and if the electricity for electric bikes comes from renewable resources. It is the most eco-friendly transport mode next to walking and a symbol of the decarbonisation of transport.
(d) increasing the benefits for its users through:

i. meeting the mobility and transport needs of its users within the Union and in relations with third countries;
Cycling is getting more and more popular. It is relatively easily accessible, highly inclusive and satisfying for users, but safety is one of the most-cited concerns when people explain why they do not cycle. Integrating EuroVelo and cycling into the TEN-T will lead to further investments in safe cycling infrastructure that meets these user needs.
ii. ensuring safe, secure and high-quality standards, for both passenger and freight transport; The EuroVelo network offers standards for high-quality cycling infrastructure through its European Certification Standard. Various other recommendations exist for cycling infrastructure, such as cycle highways, for instance. The application of these standards would be improved and promoted by integrating EuroVelo and cycling into the TEN-T.
iii. supporting mobility even in the event of natural or man-made disasters, and ensuring accessibility to emergency and rescue services; (…) Service roads provide a synergy between infrastructure for cycling, emergency, and rescue services. Cycling has also proven extremely successful in offering mobility to citizens during the Coronavirus pandemic, avoiding jammed public transport vehicles and even more car traffic. For an overview of these arguments, see the ECF article “10 reasons to sign up for cycling during the pandemic”.
iv. accessibility for elderly people, persons of reduced mobility and disabled passengers.” These groups would benefit significantly from ramps, lifts, subways etc. built for cycling purposes. Wider, segregated cycle paths would also offer more space for special bikes such as tricycles.


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EuroVelo and cycling greatly contribute to the objectives laid down in Article 4 of the TEN-T regulation, but differences in the quality of the EuroVelo routes, as well as national and regional cycling networks, persist. EuroVelo is the backbone of national/regional/local cycling networks, stimulating the development of cycling at all these levels. Many parts of the EuroVelo network are already well developed, but other sections require more investments to offer a safe and comfortable cycling experience. Ignoring cycling infrastructure in TEN-T projects often leads to the creation of obstacles for cycling development. Further investments in cycling infrastructure through the integration of EuroVelo and cycling into the TEN-T would therefore further strengthen the EU’s social, economic and territorial cohesion and render the EU’s transport sector more efficient and sustainable while increasing the benefits for its users.

The ECF has summarised all arguments in favour of this integration in its updated, dedicated Position Paper which you can read more about here or download it by clicking on the picture. Find out more on ECF's dedicated webpage on TEN-T, EuroVelo and cycling.

Authors: Aleksander Buczyński, Ernst Fahrenkrug