Icelandic Cyclists? Federation
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Icelandic Cyclists? Federation
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Sustainable development goals (1 hits), SDG (0 hits),

Full Submission

Contribution by the Icelandic Cyclists? Federation to the zero draft of the Outcome document to the UN conference for Sustainable Development in Rio 2012

The Icelandic Cyclists' Federation (LHM) understands itself as an environmental NGO in Iceland, as well as an organisation working for public health and rights issues. It is an umbrella organization of three bicycling clubs with altogether 2000 members. LHM is a member of the European Cyclists' Federation, ECF. LHM stands up for improved transportation equality in Iceland, aiming to improve the conditions for people who choose to bike. LHM sees advocacy for bicycling as an integral part of the bigger picture. Another important aspect of LHMs work is to promote improved access to other major environmentally acceptable modes of transport: walking and public transport.

On the event of the UNCSD 2012, LHM wants to make the following comments, roughly replying to the questions posed in conjunction with the preparation of the zero draft of the outcome document.

a. What are the expectations for the outcome of Rio+20, and what are the concrete proposals in this regard, including views on a possible structure of the Outcome document?

The Outcome document shall make reference to sustainable transportation with emphasis on non- motorized transportation as an essential part of the green economy, including clear and measurable targets.

Non-motorized transportation is the principal mode of transport of the poor and cycling is an important element in poverty alleviation and improved access to services.

LHM wants the conference to encourage mayors and ministers of transportation all over the world to adapt policies like the charter of Brussels and the Charter of Seville promoted by the European Cyclists? Federation (2011).

The charter of Brussels calls upon policy-makers to promote cycling and to set clear, measurable targets for cycling in terms of both modal share (the percentage of trips made by bicycle out of the total number of trips) and road safety.

The Charter of Seville underlines the benefits of cycling as a daily mode of transport, citing improved health, reduced traffic congestion, significantly cheaper infrastructure, and lowered transport emissions among many other advantages.

The benefits in terms of improved health on the municipal level are readily measured using the online resource HEAT (health economic assessment tool) for cycling, developed by the World Health Organization (2008). Similarly, the benefits of human-powered transportation in terms of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions have been assessed by an Icelandic study: increased walking and cycling comes as a net benefit of 38000 ISK (200 ? as per 2011) per ton, even when the triple health benefits of increased physical activity and reduced air pollution and noise, are not counted (Davidsdóttir et al, 2009).

b. What are the comments, if any, on existing proposals: e.g., a green economy roadmap, framework for action, Sustainable development goals, a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development, or others?

LHM is pleased to see the recommendations from UNEP both generally and specifically in what they say on cycling:

In the report of the UNEP initiative Share the Road it is called for systematic investments in walking and cycling road infrastructure in the developing world, especially in Africa. The initiative recognises that roads so far have not been built for people on foot or on bicycles, and claims designation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists in proportion to the demand for non- motorized transport. The lack of facilities for non-motorized transport has been identified as one of the top reasons why pedestrians and cyclists make up a disproportionate amount of the 1.2 million who die in road crashes each year (2011a). While the content of this report marks a change of tide in the support for cycling and walking in The South, and makes many important observation and recommendations, it is worrysome that stakeholder organisations, like the European Cyclists? Federation, apparently have not been consulted, while the ties to the car organisation FIA are very evident.

Another important report isssued by UNEP is Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication. In Part 2, Transport and Cities of this Green Economy Report, UNEP proposes a three tiered approach to sustainable transportation, namely trip avoidance, a shift to environmentally more efficient modes and only third to improve vehicles and fuel efficiency. On the modal shift they say:

Shifting to more environmentally efficient modes such as public and non-motorised transport (for passenger transport) and to rail and water transport (for freight) is recommended. Investment in public transport and infrastructure that promotes walking and cycling generates jobs, improves wellbeing and can add considerable value to regional and national economies (UNEP, 2011b).

Since already half of the global population lives in urban areas, sustainable development needs also to focus on cities. An emphasis on public transport, cycling, and ?walkability?, for example, not only contributes to road safety and community cohesion but also works in favour of the urban low income class who rely on these transport modes much more than other segments of society. (UNEP, 2011c). LHM strongly agrees with these statements.

For this reason we comment on the question of the institutional framework for sustainable development that we would like to see the organisational strength and influence of UNEP substantially enhanced.

c. What are the views on implementation and on how to close the implementation gap, which relevant actors are envisaged as being involved (Governments, specific Major Groups, UN system, IFIs, etc.);

The methods needed for implementation are the classical ones: More attention, more communication, the creation of specific programs and co-ordinator positions and cooperation with grass roots movements and academic experts. In the case of cycling promotion two special challenges arise:

(A) The multi-sectoral nature of the benefits promotion of bicycling sometimes means that in one instance bicycling promotion is viewed as a public health effort. In the next instance it is viewed as a solution to problems of congestion or local air pollution. Thirdly, bicycling appears in the toolbox for mitigating climate change. Next, bicycling is touted to improve resilience or as a generally positive symbol. Cycling and improved access is one of the most economically advantageous ways to meet those challenges, but if more of the benefits or co-benefits were considered, cycling would be seen as a much more desirable solution in each sector or problem area. In fact, we believe in the potential of the win-win situations particularly inherent in replacing car trips by bike trips. The inspiring example of the viability of the sustainable development endeavour achieved by increased bicycling modal share in cities, can induce change in other sectors, for instance more sustainable production and consumption, energy conservation, reforestation.

(B) There are barriers to bicycling promotion that on the surface seem to stem from work for public health, and the protection of life and limb. But in the greater scheme of things traditional road safety work is very often car-centric, and lead to severe restrictions on pedestrians and cyclists, while maintaining or increasing comfort and access for cars. This apparent dilemma or even paradox between improving access for healthy, green modes and improving road safety is being recognized as a falsity by a growing number of experts and NGOs (Wittink, 2001 and European Federation of Road Traffic Victims, 2011). Sadly, UN agencies like the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the Decade for Road Safety seem to a large extent stuck in the trap of road safety thinking from the 1960?s, by promoting restrictive safety measures directed towards cyclists and pedestrians, in the tradition of ?blame the victim, protect the rapist?. Examples of different and sounder approaches are traffic calming, the establishment of stricter liability in the event of crashes between cars and pedestrian/cyclists, street reclaiming for pedestrians and cycling, road diets/traffic evaporation etc.

Concerning which institutions we propose should be involved, it is a well established practice for national governments in Europe, and for major cities worldwide, to develop and implement policies and strategies to promote cycling. Improved access in a broad sense for green and healthy modes (i.e. walking and cycling) and even restrictions on the speed and ubiquity of private cars is a central tenet of these programs. Other countries and cities would do well to emulate them.

Engineering and Planning education needs reforming, although reforms are well underway at many universities. Those professionals already in top positions need adult education to take in the new insights that the soft, green modes provide realistic (arguably more realistic) and very economical solutions to the challenges faced in cities today and in the future.

The World Bank appears to be active already in cycling promotion. As an example a World Bank representative participated the international cycling conference Velo-City 2007, conveying experiences from World Bank dealings with Chinese authorities in the area of cycling promotion. The IFIs should look into the evidence base and best practices, and step it up.

Road safety work needs to take into account the bigger picture, and adopt insights from the Road Danger Reduction approach. Traditionally, the emphasis has chiefly been on the number of casualties and the cost of measures. Instead, the broader public health, environmental and resource issues of road traffic need to be integrated, taking into account the systemic effects of motorisation that leads to sprawl, alienation, intimidation. Very often vulnerable groups such as the poor are even more affected. There is a need for competence building in this field and the close co-operation of environmental and health agencies on the one hand and development and road infrastructure programmes on the other to reverse or adjust the traditional car-centric approaches.

d. What specific cooperation mechanisms, partnership arrangements or other implementation tools are envisaged and what is the relevant time frame for the proposed decisions to be reached and actions to be implemented?

LHM proposes that the Rio+20 conference encourages national and local governments to incorporate public transport, walking, and especially biking into their agendas for a green economy and make sure that by 2020 at least 10 % of the expenditures for transportation infrastructure are spent on a mix of bicycle facilities: bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, medium to high quality bicycle parking etc. The cooperation mechanism often used is network building. In the field of bicycling, the European Cyclists? Federation (ECF) is one of the better hubs for such networking. ECF has increased its global scope during recent years.

People at UNEP, World Bank, national agencies, national and local governments, NGOs etc should attend, present papers and network at the yearly Velo-city bicycling conferences. The conference series is managed by the European Cyclists? Federation. The ECF has also established the networks Scientists for Cycling and Cities for Cyclists, amongst other initiatives.

The goal for the modal share of bicycle trips should be at least 15% by 2020. Where the proportion of bicycle trips (modal share) is already that high by now, as it is the case in many Asian and European cities and towns, further-reaching targets should be set. Copenhagen is at about 35% and wants to head for 50%. Again, the ECF, together with Interface for Cycling Expertise and others are competent partners or hubs.

Finally, advertisements for cars should ideally carry a health warning comparable to how tobacco packaging or advertisements are labelled in many countries. Some countries ban advertisements for tobacco and alcohol. In the future severe restrictions on advertising for private cars will probably be considered. Instead, social marketing and positive campaigns for healthy transport is needed.

Harmful grey (counter-green) subsidies need to be reversed (Bruvoll,Skjelvik, and Vennemo, 2011). Further, re-education of politicians, bureaucrats, planners and engineers should be considered. It can be expected that those measures will pay for themselves.

Written by Ursula Zuehlke and Morten Lange for the Icelandic Cyclists? Federation ( ), October 2011.
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