On 28 November 2022, Benelux countries and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) launched a joint Bike Roadmap containing new initiatives to promote cycling and serving as a blueprint for the European Union. Benelux and NRW thus also demonstrate their ambition to further strengthen themselves as cycling hotspot within Europe, as the countries' national and regional plans already reflect high cycling ambitions.
This Roadmap is the result of one of the action points within the 2020 Benelux Bicycle Declaration, a ministerial declaration joined by several European countries, which was taken up in a 2022 European Bicycle Declaration.
Bicycle wins over car
The Bike Roadmap should lead to citizens using bicycles more, as it has positive effects. This is shown by a unique study 'cost-benefit analysis of cycling in Benelux and NRW' at the request of both regions. Every kilometre cycled means a net gain for the entire region, with especially a positive effect on health and less traffic congestion.
The analysis shows, among other things, that if 100,000 people henceforth go to work by bike over a distance of 5 km, they generate a total benefit of 196 million euros per year (they are less sick and more productive at work). If they travel this route by car, they create a total cost of €203 million per year (maintenance costs, congestion costs, air pollution, accidents...).
If 1% of all kilometres driven by car in the Benelux-NRW region were replaced by bicycle kilometres, a net gain of €13.6 billion could be realised. This includes €10 billion in health benefits (productivity gains, lower social security costs, lower risk of serious illness and death) and some €3 billion in economic gains from reduced congestion. The study therefore concludes that investing in cycling is investing in public health. This is what partly the FietsRoadmap aims to do.
Bike Roadmap initiatives
In addition to a safe and comfortable infrastructure, the Benelux-NRW Roadmap pays attention to sharing and developing cycling data for policy, setting up communication campaigns to promote cycling and other initiatives that both regions will undertake together in the coming years to promote cycling and act together within the EU.
Concrete joint actions include deploying training modules in education to promote the profession of bicycle repair, for example. Together with the sector, they also want to launch campaigns to highlight the daily use of bicycles during major cycling races. They plan to encourage eco-tourism in their own region by bicycle by ensuring that all cycling networks are clearly and well connected. Furthermore, both regions will work to ensure sufficient connectivity with public transport.
As the region is closely connected, special attention will be paid to improving cross-border cycling routes through more standardisation of cycling infrastructure, better coordination and communication.
The developments, specific challenges as well as opportunities that cargo bikes and speed pedelecs represent for policy and space will be the subject of recommendations.
Furthermore, the Roadmap commits countries to take joint positions at EU level on some cycling-related matters, such as parking standards for bikes.
Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Mobility and Public Works, François Bausch ( Benelux Presidency) added : "Currently, 50% of journeys made are shorter than 5 km. Therefore, we must systematically integrate cycling into all road projects and make cycling a fully-fledged individual mode of transport while ensuring a continuous and safe cycling infrastructure throughout the country. This mode of transport should make the biggest progress in the coming years."
Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management Vivianne Heijnen: "I am a fan of cycling, and many Dutch people are with me. I am happy to invest in cycling. Because cycling is healthy, cheap and provides numerous benefits to society. Together with my colleagues in the Benelux, I would like to go the extra mile for more cyclists. Because together we can benefit even more from the advantages cycling offers us, and that seems like good news."
Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet : "With the Benelux region, we are pioneers in cycling policy. In Belgium, for example, we are fully committed to the bicycle-train combination and are raising the minimum number of bicycle places to eight. I demand a serious and ambitious cycling policy from Europe. The goal is to make 2024 the European Year of the Bicycle during the European presidency. The climate, energy and health challenges are huge and cycling is part of the solution."
Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters: "In Flanders, we are investing a record amount of at least €300 million a year in safe and comfortable cycling infrastructure. In this way, we are developing Flanders even more as a true cycling region. We want to induce a 'cycling reflex' in as many people as possible, so that the bicycle is the spontaneous first choice of transport for every short to medium-long trip. However, our journeys do not stop at the border. That is precisely why cooperation with our neighbouring countries is essential. Together we are going for a cross-border cycling ambition."
For Walloon Mobility and Infrastructure Minister Philippe Henry: "Cycling must become a reality accessible to all, in a safe way, for both utilitarian and recreational journeys. Wallonia has just adopted a decree to consolidate its ambitious cycling policy. It sets expectations in terms of a high-quality structured cycling network. I welcome our dynamic cross-border cooperation. The subject deserves a specific directive from Europe and budgets for bicycles and their infrastructure."
Brussels Mobility Minister, Elke Van den Brandt : "Investing in cycling is investing in our health, our economy and our freedom. Across national borders, we are working together to make cycling a real alternative for commuting and recreational travel. That is the commitment of this roadmap, and the commitment of our close cooperation with our colleagues from Benelux and North Rhine-Westphalia."
"I very much welcome the fact that Benelux and North Rhine-Westphalia are intensifying their cooperation on cycling. The promotion of cycling has a long tradition in North Rhine-Westphalia. This also includes good cooperation with our neighbouring countries. Cross-border commuting is therefore an important focus for me," stressed North Rhine-Westphalia transport minister Oliver Krischer. "Cycling with a well-functioning and well-developed bicycle and footpath infrastructure is, alongside public passenger transport, the backbone of future sustainable and networked mobility. North Rhine-Westphalia has taken up the challenge to transform the transport infrastructure in the sense of sustainable mobility. We look forward to joint projects and further professional exchange."
Benelux Secretary General Alain de Muyser : "The future is to develop the infrastructure for cyclists, to enable more safety for users. With its action, which will always be cross-border, Benelux draws attention to the way forward and encourages a European approach, in the interest of all, with the citizen at the centre."