Salzburg, the city of Mozart and “The Sound of Music”, recently hosted the European Cycling Summit with the slogan “Radkultur bewegt” (translated as “Cycling culture moves”), welcoming around 400 delegates from across the world (https://cyclingsummit.zgis.at/en/home-2/). The pretty Austrian city, popular with tourists, has been increasing its number of traffic-free cycle and pedestrian paths making it extremely pleasant to explore. Salzburg’s cycling strategy encourages mobility for everyone and has already achieved a 20% cycling share of trips and over 180 kilometres of cycle paths.
Prior to the conference, a choice of cycle tours was available to participants. I opted for ‘High culture meets cycling culture’ which covered a number of fabulous sights in the city centre along with the lovely countryside over the course of 2 hours.
The welcome reception, held at the Mirabell Palace, included presentations of what has been achieved to promote cycling in the city and province as well as an ode to cycling by rap-poet Georg Sandner. The conference took place over 2 days in the Salzburg Congress – an excellent venue equipped with interpreting facilities and plenty of space during refreshment breaks to network, talk to exhibitors, attend extra panel sessions and view posters.
Topics included changing mobility routines, cycling culture for children and best practice in urban and rural areas. A panel discussion entitled ‘Cycling Culture in between Politics, Planning and Society’ brought together key players from different countries:
Amsterdam’s Inge Janssen of BYCS believes that cycling is more than transportation: it is transformation. BYCS is a social enterprise driven by the belief that bicycles transform cities and cities transform the world. It has created a network of bicycle mayors to encourage cities around the world to achieve 50% cycling by 2030 emphasising the economic, health and environmental benefits of cycling.
Berlin’s Heinrich Strößenreuther of Volksentscheid Fahrrad (Berlin Bicycle Referendum), which got more than 100,000 city residents to sign a petition for improved cycling conditions and prompted the city government to adopt their demands, argues that politicians do not willingly take away space from car users and the lack of space for cyclists is causing conflict.
Roland Romano of Radlobby Österreich, Austria’s national cycling advocacy, believes “Baut es und sie radeln” (“Build it and they will cycle”). The group promotes investment in infrastructure, research, PR, training, planning and critical mass rides.
Johannes Rauch, a member of Austria’s provincial government of Vorarlberg, feels that improving cycling infrastructure will lead to a chain reaction: cycling culture can be communicated through signage, apps, paper maps, google maps and by offering hire bikes.
Gothenburg’s Michael Koucky of Koucky & Partners AB, a leading consultancy in sustainable mobility, developed the tool Kommunvelometer, which has annually measured the cycling efforts of Swedish cities since 2009. People embrace coffee culture and car culture, but not necessarily cycling culture. Measuring investment in cycling infrastructure, information and marketing are needed.
Brussels-based Piotr Rapacz of the European Commission’s DG Move, its sustainable and intelligent transport unit, discussed a vast array of initiatives which assist cycling: SUMP guidelines, CIVITAS, European Mobility Week, Partnership on Urban Mobility, smart cities and communities, and urban access regulations.
Michael Adler, managing director of tippingpoints GmbH, an agency for sustainable communication based in Bonn and Berlin, gave examples of films promoting cycling in a creative and humorous way.
Delegates took part in a bicycle parade where they cycled from the Salzburg Congress to the Stiegl Keller as a critical mass in rush hour. With a police escort and cheering pedestrians, it was a very positive experience, culminating in an enjoyable dinner. The summit concluded with a presentation by UK cycling research expert Rachel Aldred, of the University of Westminster, on ‘Cycling Cultures of the Future’.
As many posters dotted around Salzburg state: “Fahr mit einem Grinsen. Fahr Rad” – “Ride with a smile. Ride your bike”: