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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article30 April 20182 min read

FLOW project findings: Cycling and walking on equal footing with motorised traffic offers a solution for urban congestion

Over the course of 3-years, the FLOW project investigated how to connect walking and cycling promotion with reducing urban congestion. Consequently, the project added a further but very important reason for decision makers to investigate walking and cycling as one possible and effective answer to tackle congestion in their cities. The project focused on:

  • understanding the point of view of decision makers by a survey dedicated to this target group,
  • researching and showcasing valid real-world examples highlighting that walking and cycling measures contribute to congestion reduction and improvement for all modes and
  • elaborating argumentation and good practise examples how to make use of walking and cycling for congestion reduction

Starting with a 'decision-makers point of view' survey, FLOW discovered that decision-makers are well aware of congestion as a major issue on their agendas. They are seen as the ones most able to tackle the problem, but they have concerns about how suitable walking and cycling measures are for tackling congestion. Walking and cycling are simply not regarded on equal footing with motorised options and often considered as recreational activities. Public transport on the other hand is seen as the major option to tackle congestion leading to the conclusion that walking and cycling measures need to be put in combination with public transport measures to convince decision makers on their effectiveness.

Advocating walking and cycling measures needs messages to set the right pitch to help decision-makers take notice and take the options more seriously. FLOW recommends amongst others:

  • address decision-makers to take a comprehensive look at transport networks and their challenges. The key point is to shift thinking from solving single problems like congestion to managing the transportation network to mitigate congestion and increase corridor capacities
  • address multimodality with measures of cycling, walking and public transport as a successful mix contrasting competition between these single modes
  • adding congestion management to the list of good arguments for walking and cycling
  • highlight that giving more space to cars in cities is a short time solution only leading quickly to new space for cars being overused again. Only more efficient use of space such as by multimodal solutions can result in more liveable cities
  • showcase the good practise examples and research results proving how walking and cycling measures can contribute to tackle congestion and improving the overall performance of the transport network

Concerning the latter, FLOW elaborated facts on how walking and cycling did in fact improve transport efficiency based on real international examples with a full list available here. Some highlights are:

  • Cycling improvements lead to 45% less car traffic and faster public transport (Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Cycle highway reduces time spent in congestion by 3.8 million hours (The Netherlands)
  • Cycle highway network reduces the need for 50,000 car journeys daily (Ruhr area, Germany)
  • Bike share programme eases congestion during city works (Bordeaux, France)
  • Bike share programme reduces congestion by 4% (Washington DC, USA)
  • New bike lanes reduce automobile travel times by 35% (New York, USA)

FLOW elaborated a set of walking and cycling measures tackling congestion successfully based on actual case studies. The measures described have contributed to reducing congestion or at least increased the walking and cycling modal share without any negative impact on congestion. You can find the FLOW portfolio on measures here.

Story first published by ECF on 16th of April 2018.



Publication date
30 April 2018
  • Walking and cycling
  • Europe-wide