European cycling groups have criticised some EU countries for neglecting cycling in their National Recovery and Resilience Plans, saying the levels of funding allocated by member states will see them miss out on billions in economic and health benefits.
The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) questioned Germany’s decision to set aside €3.2 billion for the purchase of electric and hybrid cars in their plan while leaving out e-bikes entirely, arguing the decision will hurt the country’s goal of increasing cycling rates.
“A total of almost €1.3 billion has been committed so far through the National Recovery and Resilience Plans to improve the cycling experience across the EU. Nevertheless, this is still modest compared to what we could see if more member states were committed to cycling,” Manuel Marsilio, general manager of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry, said in a statement.
Investing in cycling will encourage people to adopt clean mobility habits, while “creating green jobs and boosting the economy,” he added.
More than five million e-bikes were purchased in 2020, far surpassing the number of electric cars sold. The e-bike sector represents a massive growth potential for Europe, but it requires higher levels of investment, said Kevin Mayne, the CEO of Cycling Industries Europe (CIE).
“Half of the [e-bike] companies surveyed by CIE have more staff today than in 2019, and 94% say they will add staff over the next two years,” he said.
“We need to create a level-playing field for cycling and other modes of transport,” he added.
Not all countries came in for criticism, however – Belgium, which dedicated 8% of its recovery plan (some €473 million) to the construction of cycling infrastructure, was held up as a positive example.
Italy was commended for its intention to fund the development of 1,770km of cycling paths, while France’s earmarking of €100 million for its national cycling plan was also welcomed by the cycling group.
“Cycling emerged as the most resilient mode of transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling millions of EU citizens to stay active and healthy,” said Jill Warren, the CEO of ECF.
“More Europeans than ever are cycling because of new bicycle lanes and infrastructure in European cities,” she added.
EU countries must submit their spending plans in advance of accessing the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund, which was agreed by EU leaders last July. The fund, which will be distributed through loans and grants, is intended to help EU countries rebuild after the severe economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To receive the money, countries’ plans must be compatible with the EU’s target of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]