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European Cities Commit to Cycling

BRUSSELS, Belgium - On the final day of the international conference on cycling policy, Velo-city 2009, 27 cities signed the "Charter of Brussels" in the European Parliament. With this Charter the cities commit themselves to achieve at least a 15% share of all trips made in urban areas to be done by bicycle. Today, this share stands at about 5 % in Europe.
Next to the mayors from EU cities also the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee signed the Charter of Brussels whereby they commit themselves to investing in cycling policy by both infrastructure planning and promotion of bicycle use.
The Velo-city conference series is the most important conference in cycling policy in the world and is hosted every two years by a European city. Velo-city is organized by the European Cyclists' Federation (ECF) which is recognised as the first address in the bicycle world and this year it was the Brussels Region that hosted the conference.
With the key theme of ¡®RE-CYCLING cities' Velo-city2009 focused on the role of the bicycle in urban transport and on the fact that in more and more cities the bicycle as an urban means of transport is on its return. In fact, a shift is currently taking place: the bicycle is about to be acknowledged as a fully integrated part of the transport system, on equal footing with individual motorised transport and public transport.
More than 800 participants from 52 countries discussed how bicycle policy can be integrated in urban transport planning and how it can be promoted for different target groups. Velo-city participants included cyclists' associations, cities, urban planners, research institutes and institutions such as the European Commission and Parliament, United Nations, World Health Organization, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as well as prominent representatives from the bicycle industry.
Today, more than half of the world¡¯s population is living in towns and cities and with urban population expected to increase in the future. Velo-city 2009 therefore also focused on the challenges of health, air pollution and climate change in the context of urban transport and the key role the bicycle can play in facing these challenges. Infrastructure planning, parking policy, combination of bicycle and public transport, evolution of bicycle technology (e.g. electrical bicycles) and lifestyle were some of the topics discussed.
And whereas the city of Amsterdam showed how far you can go in cycling policy, Alain Jupp¨¦ from Bordeaux explained how a city can change using a step-by-step approach towards a more and more cycle friendly city. Also the challenges for urban transport in the Climate debate were emphasized by Prof. Van Ypersele from the IPCC and the how communication and marketing play a key role in encouraging people to cycle was illustrated by Guillaume Van Der Stichelen from advertising agency, Duval Guillaume.
There was also a strong emphasis on the role of Europe in facilitating cycle use in cities. The closing session of Velo-City 2009 was therefore dedicated to the European Commission's role. EU Vice President, Siim Kallas presented how the European institutions are promoting cycling to work and the European Commissioner for Transport, Antonio Tajani opened the conference on Tuesday 12 May by explaining the key role the bicycle has to play in the action plan of the Green Urban Transport Paper.
The European Parliamentary debate on the final day of the conference saw the constitution of a parliamentary intergroup for cycling in the European parliament being discussed as well as appointing a European Bicycle officer within the European Commission. The closing session featured the launch of the European Cycling Dictionary - a multilingual glossary for citizens and politicians. The booklet is published by the European Economic and Social Committee and contains key cycling terms in all 23 official EU languages.
Finally the Charter of Brussels1 was signed by representatives of several European cities (Brussels, Milan, Munich, Sevilla, Tartu, Reggio Emilia, Houten, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Aalborg, Helmond, Breda, 's Hertogenbosch, Tilburg, Eindhoven, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Timisoara, Gdansik, Izmit...), the city of Portland (US), the EESC (European Economic and Social Committee) and the European Commission. It will now be circulated to other cities in Europe to also seal their commitment.
At the final ceremony, the Velo-city conference series was handed over from Brussels to Copenhagen. Velo-city 2010 Global will be linked to the UN Climate summit which is taking place in December 2009 in Copenhagen and the role the bicycle can play in the climate change debate.
By linking Velo-city 2010 to this summit Copenhagen again wants to make clear to the whole world that they made an explicit choice for the bicycle in the city and since having chosen for the bicycle, quality of urban life in Copenhagen has increased every year Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen, Klaus Bondam said that Velo-city 2009 has clearly set the goals for cycling policy in cities in future years and he takes inspiration from this year to share with Copenhagen in 2010.