Barrot said: "As Commissioner for Transport I am responsible for all modes of transport. Despite the application of the subsidiarity principle I feel that the European Commission has a role to play in promoting bicycle use across Europe."
Importantly, he said: "Cycling can play a bigger role in the Transport White Paper’s objective to re-balance the modes. This objective will obviously require rationalising the use of the private car, especially in cities."
In 2001, the European Commission adopted a White paper on the European transport policy. This was to "rebalance the modal split from congested and polluting modes, mainly the road transport sector to less congested and more environmental-friendly modes."
Barrot, perhaps like no other Commissioner for Transport before him, recognises the key role bicycles can play in the overall transport masterplan:
"Cycling is an efficient way of using road space...it is a cheap, clean and energy efficient transport mode...it is a route to a healthy and enjoyable city life. Without well-connected cycling and walking facilities, public transport cannot successfully operate.
"When we look towards the future, our statistics show that, in most urban areas, there is a growing trend in car use. The level of bicycle use is generally stable, which means that cycling is losing market share, as are walking and public transport use. A few countries stand out with very high modal shares for cycling. In the Netherlands more than 1 in 4 trips are made by bicycle, in Denmark more than 1 in 6. We have clear evidence that properly developed and sustained policies result in improved usage of the bike, and at the same time can produce a better and safer environment for cyclists."
Barrot said the Commission had many initiatives on the go which will promote cycling.
"The CIVITAS Initiative, that has so far allocated 100 Million Euro from the EU’s framework programme for research and development, helps cities to introduce and test packages of innovative measures to improve their local transport system. For example, as part of its integrated approach, the city of Nantes has set up a bicycle renting scheme for university students with the name Velocampus. In Cork, here in Ireland, we have helped the municipality to launch a local Cycleways project.
"To participate in CIVITAS, cities have to set ambitious targets and so far we have selected 36 CIVITAS cities, of which 11 are in the new Member States. The experiences of the CIVITAS cities are well documented and form a reference point for other cities. It is my intention to continue with the CIVITAS Initiative over the years to come.
"The Commission will continue to use its other funding mechanisms as a means to help implement its policies. For example, as part of the new Programme for Competitiveness and Innovation the Commission intends to continue the Intelligent Energy - Europe Programme. The STEER part of this programme offers support for pilot projects, studies and promotional activities that addresses the efficient use of energy in transport. It is obvious that this includes cycling. The Commission is at this moment selecting a first set of cycling-related projects that will be co-funded. These will help in implementing bike-sharing schemes, promotional campaigns for cycling, knowledge sharing and benchmarking, and company travel plans that promote cycling, in about 50 cities in Europe.
Barrot wants to see more protection for cyclists:
"When space permits, cyclists should have their own dedicated and well identified infrastructure. But this is not always possible. Since November 2003 there is a Directive in force that aims to make the fronts of certain vehicles less aggressive in case of accidents with vulnerable road users. The industry could also reflect on the need to equip bicycles with a reflective safety arm, attached to the back of the bicycle. Such a device can help to make sure that car drivers keep sufficient distance when they overtake a cyclist.
"Cyclists themselves have to make sure that they wear a safety helmet. All cyclists should take an example from the big professional cycle competitions such as the Tour de France."