Congestion charging gets more people on bikes, finds study

Congestion charging schemes in four European cities led to cycling booms, says ECF.
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A new report has found that congestion charging is a key way to get more people on bikes. “Congestion charges and cycling”, from the European Cyclists' Federation, claims that investing revenues from congestion charges into sustainable mobility plans, and particularly cycling, can get cities moving.

London is one of the cities featured in the report. "Cycling in London has seen remarkable growth," applauded the Mayor of London's office and the Greater London Authority back in March. One of the most tangible parts of this growth has been the building of the Cycle Superhighways, but cycling was already booming in London before these fully-protected cycleways came along, and one of the key kickstarters of London's cycling renaissance was Ken Livingstone's congestion charge, introduced in 2003. 

The other cities featured in the ECF report are Milan, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The four cities achieved similar, positive results: introducing a congestion charge scheme created net revenues, reduced congestion, improved air quality and was beneficial for sustainable mobility, claims the ECF.

The eport, written by ECF’s economic policy officer Holger Haubold, highlights that it is vital to plan the use of the revenues to improve sustainable mobility right from the beginning. To reduce car traffic ECF recommends the investment of net revenues in sustainable modes of transport. 

Naturally, cycling should play an integral role in this process, says the report. In Milan, congestion charges were spent entirely on measures to promote sustainable mobility, including the city’s bike sharing system “BikeMi”. This which led to a considerable usage growth concentrated in the area covered by the congestion charge scheme.

In London, cycling in the inner city has increased by 66 percent since the introduction of the congestion charge. Cycling has also become safer, says the ECF: crashes in Central London have decreased by 40 percent.

"The experiences from London and Milan show that investing net revenues from congestion charging schemes in cycling measures yields impressive results," says Haubold.

"These examples should be taken into account by other cities considering to introduce similar schemes, but also by the EU when developing non-binding guidance on urban access restrictions. Congestion charges and cycling are a winning combinstion: investing in cycling helps to create an attractive alternative to motorised transport."

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