"Showing how cycling can be a future maker" 
Bernhard Ensink, Secretary-General of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF)
Today Velo-city 2015, the world summit on cycling, kicks off in Nantes. What is it about?
The motto of this year’s Velo-city conference is “Cycling: Future Maker”. Cycling is without a doubt going to play a role in the future of transportation and our society in general. Through the collaboration and ideas shared at the conference, we hope to continue to pave the way for cycling communities to become even stronger in the future. The conference is also closely linked in theme to global events such as COP21 and the Habitat-III new urban agenda. We are making the link between cycling and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and showing how cycling can be a future maker.
We’re expecting around 1300 delegates, plus a lot of interaction with the general public. There are a lot of side events and activities organized by our networks and our partners in Nantes: a bike parade on June 3, bicycle cinema, a lot of local involvement from schools to businesses. In fact, Nantes Metropole has essentially made 2015 a year of the bicycle. Everyone is involved. Velo-city 2015 also has a large exhibition, with businesses and associations from all over the world.
What is the aim of Velo-city 2015?
Velo-city 2015 aims to bring together all cycling stakeholders to share current knowledge and collaborate for future work. By being in France, Velo-city 2015 also aims to connect cycling communities from around the francophone world. As in the motto, this conference aims to be very forward-thinking. What have we learnt from the past, and where do we see ourselves going in the future?
In this sense, the conference looks at cycling as tool for transition, as a means of resilience and democratization of space. And in the year of the new Sustainable Development Goals the United Nations will adopt in autumn and in the year of the UN Climate Summit COP21 in Paris, we want to have impact on the global agenda, showing that cycling delivers: cycling is a sustainable means of transport and contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and to fight climate change.
How important is the Velo-city event for the mission of your organization?
ECF aims to get more people cycling more often. The Velo-city event definitely helps us achieve this mission. When all stakeholders, all levels of government, cycling activists, transportation planners, engineers, architects, and associations get together to share and learn from each other – new ideas come about from this kind of networking that improves the future of cycling.
Velo-city works to bring everyone together for a week – and this is invaluable for us to be able to use this opportunity to schedule project meetings, side events, workshops – and even to grab a coffee with someone to share an idea or thought. It is this kind of networking – a face-to-face moment – that really gives the impetus for the work needed to get more people cycling more often.
After Vienna (2013) and Adelaide (2014) and before Taipei in 2016, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) has chosen Nantes Metropole to host Velo-city 2015. Why?
It is a mid-sized city – only 600,000 population – with huge ambitions, and it has already made some great developments in cycling. Nantes Metropole has a strong mobility plan that promotes cycling; it has invested in a lot of bicycle infrastructure. All these reasons make it an interesting city for delegates to visit from a cycling perspective – to learn how Nantes became the fifth most bicycle-friendly city and the European Green Capital of 2013.
Velo-city always comprises a technical visit, cycling remains a very tangible idea, so for delegates to come to Nantes and be able to cycle around and see the infrastructure for themselves, to see how the locals interact with that infrastructure – this kind of thing remains invaluable. It is also at the crossroads of two EuroVelo routes, the European cycle route network, and has strong cycle tourism infrastructure.
Furthermore, Nantes’ bid was backed by strong support from the French cycling community and the French government. To have that kind of support ensured that this would be a successful conference. As an added bonus, Nantes has great culture and atmosphere that makes it an attractive place to visit and explore on a personal level.
What are the top three challenges for European Cyclists’ Federation these days?
1. The integration of cycling in all policies, on all levels: at local, regional, national, European and global level. For many decision makers, cycling is still not seen as a real mode of transport. We have to build up the evidence, to disseminate it to the right people, to bring as many allies as we can around the table so that politicians and experts can make the right decisions. We need to show them what cycling already delivers and can further deliver to achieve goals in all policy fields. Therefore we can, for example, show to the EU the contribution of cycling to the economic growth agenda of the EU.
2. For the EU level: to double cycling in Europe by 2020, compared with 2010. Without a substantial increase of cycling, the EU and EU countries will not achieve their goals regarding such areas as health, clean air and liveable cities.
3. To reduce the number of fatal accidents involving cyclists. Based on our Charter of Brussels (2009), we’ve set a target reduce by 50%, for 2020, cyclists running the risk of having a fatal accident.
European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF):
ECF was founded in 1983 to unite the voices of cyclists across Europe. From 12 founding members, ECF has grown to more than 85 today. Its goal & mission have remained the same: more people cycling more often. To reach this, ECF advocates for cycling among European and international institutions as well as stimulates and organises the exchange of knowledge and know-how from cycling policy expertise to campaigning. Organising the Velo-city conference every year is part of this mission, as well as managing EuroVelo - the European cycle route network - and the Leadership Programme which redistributes funding from the bicycle industry to national advocacy groups. Last year ECF also launched the World Cycling Alliance which brings the voice of bicycle users from the entire world to international institutions such as the UN, OECD, and the World Bank.
w w w. velo-city2015. com,w w w. ecf. com