Involving citizens in the mobility transition

Freiburg (DE) celebrates success with the CITY CYCLING campaign

Cycling plays an important role in the sustainable mobility transition. Municipalities in particular are called upon to promote and expand cycling. For the local level, however, it is not only about the cycling infrastructure, but also about motivating citizens and initiating sustainable change. With its participation in CITY CYCLING last year, the City of Freiburg showed how a city can successfully involve citizens in the mobility transition.

Every year, Climate Alliance's CITY CYCLING campaign invites thousands of citizens and local councils to get on their bikes for a period of 21 days and thus set a strong sustainable mobility example locally. Last year, more than 800,000 people and over 2,000 municipalities from six countries took part. In 2021, Freiburg participated in CITY CYCLING for the first time and immediately won the category "most active municipal parliament" – a complete success.

Freiburg has long seen itself as a cycling city. In 2016, the city analysed the com-position of urban traffic (modal split). Bicycle traffic made up a 34% share of the total – a high value when compared to the rest of Germany. Yet the city streets are full cars, especially at rush hour, meaning that potential to further increase cycling exists. This potential was the reason that local sustainability team and the Sustainability Council, a body of urban stakeholders, decided to run the CITY CYCLING campaign for the first time in 2021. "Cycling plays a big role for us and we wanted to initiate concrete projects. The CITY CYCLING campaign was a per-fect fit," comments Peter Rinker, Sustainability Manager of the City of Freiburg. With the campaign, the city sought to raise awareness for cycling among the population. "Investments in the city's infrastructure are of course important. But the change must also take place in people's minds," says Peter Rinker.

The campaign was a great success with over 6,600 citizens participating. But how was the city able to motivate so many to take part in CITY CYCLING right from the start? Freiburg relied on broad-based communication that was not carried out by the city administration alone. "A large network of businesses, civil society and universities called for participation," Peter Rinker clarifies. Target group-oriented communication also helped, with email communication in particular being an important component. "Posters, banners or social media only reached a fraction of the people. Targeted communication via email to various networks has brought the greatest success," Peter Rinker explains further.

In addition to the effect of raising awareness, CITY CYCLING provides further benefits. Via the RADar! reporting platform, participants can report problems and hazards in the local infrastructure directly to their municipality and thus contribute to an improved cycling infrastructure. With the CITY CYCLING app, participating cyclists can also track their kilometres and provide valuable cycling data on the routes they have cycled. This information can then be fed into another Climate Alliance project, the RiDE (Radverkehr in Deutschland) platform. Following the campaign, cities and town – for now only in Germany – can thus use RiDE to view the anonymised data of their municipality in the form of heat maps or traffic volume or speed maps and use this as a basis for their infrastructure planning. With answers to questions such as ‘how many cyclists are on the road and when?’ as well as ‘how smoothly do cyclists reach their destination?’, the processed data can contribute to a sustainable improvement of the cycling infrastructure and thus lead to more cycling. Freiburg, too, makes use of this offer. Last year, 60% of the participants used the CITY CYCLING app – an extremely high rate. Rinkert explains that "the app is the easiest way to participate in the campaign and that's exactly how we communicated it in our advertising.” This simple approach seems to have worked in Freiburg. The city now has the data of over 4,000 citizens who cycle at its disposal. The city already has ideas about how to use this data and plans to make it freely accessible for all interested stakeholders on the city's data portal.

The City of Freiburg has shown how to motivate citizens to participate – playfully, with attractive offers, and with target group-oriented communication. The CITY CYCLING campaign allows municipalities to involve their citizens in the mobility transition and, for municipalities in Germany, offers a valuable additional benefit with the new RiDE data platform. Municipalities from across Europe and beyond, however, can benefit from participation in CITY CYCLING as well as make use of RADar! and the CITY CYCLING app. Climate Alliance members receive a discount on participation. Interested municipalities can register for CITY CYCLING 2022 as of 9 March. And one thing is already certain: Freiburg will be participating again this year.

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written February 2022