Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Project Success Stories - Helping Europeans get on their bikes

What can raise your heart rate, save you money and reduce global warming? Answer: Cycling, of course! A European research project is making sure that when you get on your bike, a safe and hassle-free ride is guaranteed.
Project Success Stories - Helping Europeans get on their bikes
So if the advantages are so compelling and attractive, why doesn't everyone ride a bike, at least a little in their leisure time? It seems that people don't always do what is good for them. But with the right carrots or sticks in place that could change.

Carrots are sweeter when it comes to inducing lifestyle changes, so what the punter needs, and likes, must be at the forefront of promotional schemes from government bodies, charities or private enterprise.

The EU-funded project 'BYPAD platform' has taken just this approach and, in the process, changed the behaviour of hordes of Europeans. It has made cycling more attractive and available by asking, and responding, to questions in a specially-tailored questionnaire for local and regional authorities.

BYPAD platform has come a long way since its birth almost ten years ago as the 'Bicycle policy audit' (BYPAD). Funded by the EU's Sixth Framework Programme and the 'Intelligent energy Europe initiative' (IEE) to further improve cycling audits, it has evolved into the accepted auditing tool that fits the cycling context of all European countries.

Thirty-five pertinent questions are geared to respondents' country, region, city or town. 'How good is the cycling policy in your town, city or region? Is it effective and efficient? How can it be improved?' BYPAD's auditors look for ways to convert the data collected in the questionnaires into workable solutions to improve biking conditions on the ground.

The auditors are keen to ensure that the information obtained - on or off-line - doesn't gather proverbial dust on the shelf. They are consultants or staff members from organisations who know the cycling context of their country. It is up to these cycling enthusiasts to guide cities and regions to implement BYPAD and develop action plans. More than 80 auditors in 100 cities, regions and towns have been trained and certified to implement progressive change in the cycling world.

BYPAD platform considers cycling policy as a dynamic process. The BYPAD quality circle (visit the website to see more) sums up the system and is divided into monitoring, planning and actions.

A growing concern

Europe has expanded geographically and politically over the past decade and six new countries have been added since the early days of BYPAD including Estonia and Kosovo. BYPAD platform has made sure that language is not a barrier. At present, the questionnaire is available online and in hard copy in no less than 17 languages throughout 21 countries.

Filling in a questionnaire has unexpected spin-offs as well, according to Peter Weiss, bicycle traffic coordinator in Salzburg, Austria: 'Dealing with the questionnaire made me look at our activities from a different point of view. The contents of the questions provided me with many ideas for the future.'

Completed audits can be revealing in other ways as well. For instance, questions that score poorly can be singled out for special treatment - such as recommendations to improve the situation on a certain timescale.

The audit summary includes target scores, the identity of possible funding sources and useful synergies between stakeholders. The main actors responsible for making sure the goals are put into action are then identified. More negative, but essential, is a list of possible objections to the proposals.

Europe is a mixed bag socially and politically, even within regions, but some features of the cycling initiative are common to all areas. Cycling enthusiasts are united by best practices and the existing BYPAD website has been expanded to include a good practice database which also feeds the European Local Transport Information Service (ELTIS) database with up-to-date information on cycle policy.

In the past couple of years alone, the ELTIS website has dealt with cycling in schools in the UK and Spain, and how to establish a cycling culture in Denmark and Germany. Belgium's 'Safe and healthy on the bike' scheme promoted cycling to the elderly as a way of keeping in touch with the local community and staying healthy at the same time.

Steering change

BYPAD is not only spreading the cycling word where it is most needed but it is also stimulating new ideas and approaches in established cycling countries, such as the Netherlands.

The electronic or e-bike is a good example. Aimed initially at cyclists over 60 for making life easier, this hybrid vehicle takes the effort out of pedal power. The compact chargeable lithium battery is discretely housed within the frame or on the rack at the back.

Martijn van de Leur, BYPAD platform consultant in the Netherlands sums up what this cycle means to the user. 'The e-bike is like cycling with the wind always behind you,' he says. 'With the help of an e-bike, a 7 km journey can be raised to 15 km with the same effort from the cyclist.'

Mr van de Leur is keen to extend e-bike use beyond older cyclists. 'We originally aimed at making life easier for the elderly and the disabled,' he explains, 'but the scope is widening and we are promoting the high-tech aspect to attract younger age groups.'

BYPAD platform can also boost services generally for the cycling public. 'In the Netherlands, we are constantly improving and upgrading facilities such as parking and charging points for e-bikes,' he points out. The Dutch city of Rotterdam is installing charging points for the e-bike in public cycle parks.

For the many BYPAD stakeholders, including auditors and the public, news of the complementary efforts of other projects is welcome. A good example is in Rotterdam, where companies in the area can test an e-bike and feel the benefits for themselves.

BYPAD project campaigns for all kinds of bikes, not just the e-bike. 'Appealing to other target groups is the way forward in a country like the Netherlands where cycling is already popular,' Mr van de Leur points out. 'Another popular cycle is the cargo bike for the family with small kids.' The cargo bike is equipped with a tough wooden box at the front where the children sit and the bike has a low centre of gravity for safety. The small passengers are even strapped in with three-point harnesses.

A stamp of success

BYPAD platform is always looking to expand auditor experience and disseminate information using the internet, conferences and congresses. The latest attended by project auditors was Velo-city Global 2010 held in the Danish capital Copenhagen. The project has established a massive network of both information and representatives and its growth looks set to continue.

The success of BYPAD is evident in virtually all bicycle circles throughout Europe. Different national and regional authorities - for example, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany - advocate use of the project as a quality management tool.

Little wonder then that BYPAD has the reputation of being the quality standard for cycling policy throughout Europe.
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