Speech by State Secretary Christiane Rohleder at the Velo-City-Conference

Porträt: Staatssekretärin Christiane Rohleder
State Secretary Dr. Christiane Rohleder gave a speech on sustainable mobility in Leipzig at the Velo-City conference, the world's largest cycling conference.

– Check against delivery –

Ms Totinia Hoerner,
Mr Henk Swarttouw,
Mayor Thomas Dienberg,
State Secretary Hartmut Höppner,
Professor Carlos Moreno,
Good morning everyone,

I am very happy to be here at Velocity - not only because I am an enthusiastic cyclist myself, but because bikes will play an essential role in a successful transport transformation.

And I am very pleased that Velocity is being held here in Leipzig since the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities was adopted right here in 2007. It laid the foundation for a new urban policy in Europe and was a milestone at the time. To this day, it remains a key point of reference for urban development policy in Germany and Europe.

Urban development policy will play a significant role in sustainable mobility and the transformation of transport. Transport does not take place in a vacuum. It happens in networks with starting points and destinations, inviting and uninviting roads, and good transport links and bad ones. All these networks are shaped by urban planning.

In this respect, the choice of Leipzig as the venue for this year’s Velocity conference was a fitting decision because the city spearheads good ideas in urban development and mobility. And because the city, through the Leipzig Charter, has committed to the model of the compact city as an important prerequisite for more sustainable mobility.

On the subject of transport, the Charter says: "An essential contribution to the quality of life, locational quality and the quality of the environment can be made by sustainable, accessible and affordable urban transport […]. Particular attention should be paid to traffic management and interlinking transport modes, including cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Urban transport must be reconciled with the different requirements of housing, work areas, the environment and public spaces."

This highlights the fact that urban transport has to serve people and their needs and is not an end in itself. This may seem like a trivial distinction. But if you look at some of the transport policy debates, this is unfortunately still not always self-evident. It is not enough to simply determine how many cars are on the road and then organise everything accordingly. Instead, transport must be designed to make mobility more sustainable and to ensure that everyone’s needs are taken into account equally in the public sphere. Cyclists and pedestrians need to have the same rights in the public sphere as car drivers.

We also need to take into account the environmental impact of transport. The aim is better air, less noise and less land use, which has a positive effect on people’s health and quality of life.

And climate change mitigation is also a factor. Of course urban transport is not the main cause of carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector. But in Germany we have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2045. If we want to reach this target, emissions also need to be lowered in our cities.

With this in mind, business as usual is not an option. We need change. We need to take a major step towards more environmentally friendly transport to ensure lower carbon dioxide emissions, cleaner air, less noise and less land use. We need to fundamentally transform transport – and not just in Germany. This is the only way to preserve our quality of life, now and in the future.

But we cannot bring about these changes with a single cure-all measure. Instead, a diverse range of activities is needed. We must make transport more efficient and cleaner, switch to environmentally friendly modes of transport and reduce traffic on the roads. For most of you, this is nothing new. Many of you here in this room have been calling for these measures for many years, even decades.

Progress has definitely been made in recent years: cars have become cleaner, e-mobility is on the brink of breaking into the mass market and – last but not least – bikes have become an increasingly popular means of transport.

But we still have so much work to do!

I think that bikes have an extremely important role to play in the diverse range of measures needed to achieve our environmental and climate targets.

Bikes are ideal because – and I don’t need to tell you this – they are fast, produce no emissions, don’t take up much space and are quiet. And they keep you in shape, even e-bikes.

This is why bikes are essential to a transport transformation.

But the framework conditions for cycling are still clearly in need of improvement. To ensure that everyone who wants to cycle more can do so, we need safe and adequately wide cycle paths. And not just in cities, but also in rural areas where bikes can replace cars in many cases. But this can only work if cars and lorries aren’t whizzing past at high speed and if safe cycle paths are available. It must be possible to park bikes safely at train stations, and there must also be more space for bikes on trains. This is the only way to make cycling an attractive alternative to cars for even more people.

The climate and our air will benefit. But a well-organised cycling network is much more than that – being able to cycle safely also means better quality of life, improved health, more personal autonomy and more vibrant living environments.

In addition to individual transport, cycling can also play an important role in commercial transport, which also needs to become more sustainable. Delivery services alone are steadily increasing in our towns and cities. One reason is the growth of online retail. A similar trend can be seen in many other parts of Europe and the world. Almost a fifth of transport-related nitrogen dioxide emissions in towns cities in Germany stem from commercial vehicles, many of which are used for deliveries.

Here, too, cycling can contribute even more to reducing emissions. Good examples from other countries and from large logistics companies show how well cargo bikes can be deployed to deliver parcels, for example.

However, we can only bring about this much-needed transformation in transport by persuading people of the benefits of alternatives. During the coronavirus pandemic, many people switched to cycling. And overall, we know that the vast majority of people would like to see cars become virtually unnecessary in our towns and cities so that we can go about our daily lives on foot, by bike or by public transport. People want to have a choice. Creating the necessary framework conditions is key to achieving this.

In this spirit and in keeping with the motto of this opening session, it is our job to set the right course for the road to the sustainable mobility of the future and for this transformation.

Conferences like this one are an important platform for sharing ideas about this transformation and best-practice examples that we can learn from.

I wish you all interesting discussions and stimulating insights in the days to come.

Thank you!

09.05.2023 | Speech Mobility

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