We sat down with Henk Swarttouw, President Of European Cyclists’ Federation, to find out his predictions for mobility in 2023.

2023 will see an increased modal share for cycling across Europe

Driven by the polycrisis of climate change, supply disruptions, rising cost of living and the war in Europe, 2023 will see increasing investment in cycling. Governments will want to reduce the emissions from road transport to get closer to their emission reduction goals, but they are also aiming for better quality of life in their cities (the 15-Minute City!) and more physical activity among citizens to improve public health and reduce healthcare expenditure.

An increasing number of countries will embark upon national cycling strategies and sign the European Bike Declaration. Governments at local, regional, national and even European level will invest in more, better and safer infrastructure for cycling. Even some private charities (Bloomberg!) will be starting to invest in cycling.

The scarcity of adequately educated traffic engineers and planners for cycling infrastructure will make itself felt and prove to be a new bottleneck for effectively spending the funds which will become available.

In addition, governments at all levels will decide on new and adapted legislation and regulation which will boost cycling levels through fiscal incentives and increased road safety.

Cities in particular will increasingly stimulate active mobility and public transport and discourage the use of private ICE cars through lowering speed limits, introducing low-traffic neighbourhoods, creating low-emission zones and restricting on-street parking.

Smallish but very vocal minorities will continue to resist these changes, in particular at the (sub-)local level. Meanwhile, the already substantial body of empirical research substantiating the benefits of these policies will continue to grow.

Less progress will be made on road safety. As cycling and walking numbers continue to grow while cars get bigger and heavier (SUV’s!), infrastructure and regulation will lag behind in providing adequate protection to cyclists and pedestrians. Unfortunately, the number of traffic victims among cyclists and pedestrians will not decrease substantially and Vision Zero will remain far out of sight.

2023 will see the following vectors actively leading to an increased modal share for cycling across Europe.

  1. E-bikes, already outselling regular bikes in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany will be spreading further across the continent. E-bikes prove to be a game changer; recent research suggests that they get more people on bikes, who will make 1,5 times more trips, which on average will be twice as long.
  2. Cycle-logistics, using ever more advanced electric cargo bikes will increasingly take over last-mile delivery, in particular in inner cities and central business districts. Fewer delivery vans on the streets will free up road space in our cities, while more cargo bike delivery vehicles will clog already narrow cycling infrastructure. This will lead to calls for redistribution of existing road space.
  3. Public authorities and transport operators will redouble efforts to integrate cycling into their public transport systems. On the one hand making space for bikes on their trains and buses, but more importantly by providing safe and secure bike parking at stations and other public transport hubs. They will also invest in seamlessly integrating bikeshare solutions into multi-modal public transport systems. Micro-mobility providers will increasingly cooperate with public authorities and transit operators.
  4. Tourism and leisure cycling will continue to grow apace. Consumers are increasingly looking for domestic holidays, active travel and more sustainable tourism in general. Tour operators and other suppliers recognise this trend. Many destinations are developing attractive routes for tourism and leisure cycling, at regional, national and international level (EuroVelo!).
  5. Industry at large recognises the potential of the bike sector. Automotive manufacturers and retailers are branching out into bicycles through investment and acquyisitions. The first real international bicycle fleet-operator (Swapfiets) will steadily increase its footprint.

Explore more predictions

You can explore more predictions from global thought leaders and visionaries who are shaping the future of mobility, liveable cities and sustainable Transport, in our Global Thought Leaders Predictions for Mobility 2023 report.

About Henk Swarttouw

Henk Swarttouw is President of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF). A life-long cyclist, Swarttouw was a professional diplomat in the Dutch foreign service for 30+ years and has served as his country’s ambassador to Finland and to Denmark. Actively engaged in cycling diplomacy since 2012 and part of ECF’s Board since 2019, he has been cycling to school and to work for over 50 years.

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is the single European umbrella organisation for cycling for both transportation and leisure. With nearly 70 member organisations across more than 40 countries, ECF unites the European cycling movements as the only civil society voice at the pan-European level, and as the world’s largest and best-known cyclists’ advocacy organisation, promoting cycling as a sustainable and healthy means of transport and leisure.