Selected, the most important parts of the Project's application form submitted to the EU under the Grundtvig Partnership of The Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) 2007-2013. The application has been approved in June 2011.

D.1. Summary

Volunteers of Cycling Academy (VOCA) is a partnership network whose goal is to strengthen adult activists and volunteers of cycling advocacy organisations by

1. improving their knowledge and competences about high quality, bike-friendly infrastructure by studying real examples in various EU cities as well as theoretical engineering and policy principles;

2. the possibility to discuss and learn from each other by exchange and sharing of experiences;

3. making them more skilled in raising awareness of and cooperation with municipalities, traffic engineers, drivers, police and residents.

The Participants will visit cities with high or growing bicycle modal share like Copenhagen or Vienna and look for what are the success factors in shifting people from cars to bicycles. Not so advanced cities will be visited as well, to look for what needs to be improved and to gain insights on how to do it. During these “practical lessons” the Participants will be comparing different traffic conditions in visited cities, looking for good practice examples that can be replicated and identifying problems which need to be solved, at local and also at the EU level.

Finally, a catalogue of problems and good practices will be prepared and published to be reused by everybody interested in the information.

One of the deliverables of this project will be an assessment of the most important and urgent needs of European Cyclists, as well as a report on the negative factors that inhibit the development of bycicle friendly solutions. It will be a social contribution to future EU policies, legislation etc. in terms of sustainable transport and urban areas development, from the cycling community of users that already use this means of transportation today.

D.2. Rationale

Please describe the motivation for this project and why this project is needed

According to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee ”transport is a sphere where the EU sustainable development strategy policy has NOT succeeded in reversing the trend towards increased emissions”. And “there is no consistent trend that would turn the situation around” (NAT/440 - CESE 1706/2009, 5 November 2009). In this Project we focus on the bicycle as a very important element of sustainable transportation.

Transportation plays a key role in the quality of life in cities. When based mainly on the private car – growing demand for transport leads to increasing congestion, wasted time in traffic jams, air pollution, obesity, CO2 emission, noise and car accidents. Frustrating traffic conditions cause neurosis and aggressive behaviour by motor vehicle drivers ("road rage"). Pedestrians are not free to use the pavements crowded with parked cars. Many EU cities face these serious problems and are unable to solve them. Some others, on the other hand, have managed to reduce car usage and become healtier and people friendly by means of increased bicycle use.

Bicycling is one, if not the, cheapest, healthiest, and most efficient means of transport. From a social point of view it's affordable, accessible, egalitarian, and supports better, closer interpersonal relations in society. People who cycle are not insulated from each other like drivers. Cycling supports social equality in terms of age, sex, race, income or education. It's worth stressing that introducing bicycle to a greater extent has many positive indirect impacts – economic, social, healthcare, environmental, cultural, spatial. We shouldn't omit a pleasure of riding, joy, well-being and self-satisfaction well known to everybody who cycles. That makes bicycle so popular for leisure time.

There are huge differences between cycling friendly north-west Europe and the south where the bicycle is unfortunately still underestimated or even discriminated against. In former communist countries cyclists are to some extent an excluded group, vulnerable on the road, often presumed guilty by default by the police. It's completely the opposite for the following Dutch approach: “Cyclists are not dangerous; cars and car drivers are: so car drivers should take the responsibility for avoiding collisions with cyclists. This implies that car drivers are almost always liable when a collision with a bicycle occurs and should adapt their speed when share the road with cyclists”. European Communities should eridicate such differences.

It's not obvious, but how the state values cyclists and cycling is a good indicator of how the state treats justice, human rights, equity, egality, modernity and development. So cyclists rights and cycling conditions are in fact a crucial issue in terms of EU cohesion, safety, sustainability and quality of living. Naturally, this Project will not provide a solution to such broad challenges. We believe however that it will be a valuable citizen's contribution and important step towards valid solutions to these challenges.

The official publication of the European Communities claims that “the worst enemies of the bicycle in urban areas are not cars, but longheld prejudices”. That means lack of knowledge, awareness, practical experience and guidelines. This Project is going to fill in that gap.

EESC calls for “clear prioritisation of objectives, with precedence for local public transport, walking and cycling over car infrastructure” as "the only way to improve living and environmental conditions in metropolitan areas.” In spite of that, these conditions do not improve in many cities. Better social involvement is necessary in various dimensions to speed up bicycle transport development. This Project is going to encourage local residents to involve voluntarily in the future of transportation in their city.

The crucial role of quality will be stressed during the Project. Infrastructure quality is so important, because incorrectly designed or maintained cycle tracks increase the risk of accidents instead of reducing it and discourage people from cycling instead of encouraging them. So the participants and decision makers will be warned: It is not enough to have money. As without quality standards it may be spent in a counterproductive way!

For many years, policies to further cycling development in cities have focused on reinforcing infra-structure and legislation. However, there are many evidences that a true breakthrough will only occur by increasing awareness and involvement of the communities which are the object of such policies. This is where the Cycling Volunteers can have a great impact, through their close ties with the communities in which they act.

D.3. Project objectives and strategy

The general objective of the VOCA can be summed up as: preparing cycling advocacy social groups for a more efficient and knowledge-based activity. It can be divided up into the following sub-objectives:

1. Sharing experience and knowledge about social activities and traffic design aiming for better cycling conditions.

2. Collecting and publishing all relevant best practices concerning urban infrastructure, promotion, education, and public participation, including volunteers involvement.

3. Comparing the cycling conditions in different EU countries in terms of legislation, road code, infrastructure, policy, etc.

4. Creating the catalogue of the most important and urgent needs of European cyclists, and development inhibiting factors.

In some countries NGOs successfully participate in many areas related to cycling:

-- help in traffic education and safety improvement,

-- raise efficiency of promotion, support social habits and behaviour shaping,

-- support road authorities and engineers in the design of bicycle-friendly infrastructure.

The last point is particularly important in terms of adult education. The principles of good (safe, comfortable, cohesive) infrastructure are not widely known. In many East and South Europe countries adult road designers don't know how to design cycle paths, because they were never taught it during their studies. Adult education and civil society involvement is the best way to fill in this knowledge gap. In Warsaw each road project has to be consulted with cyclist organizations and such a “social audit” prevents the repetition of errors and wasting public funds for useless cycle paths.

The participants will learn skills and become prepared to "teach" their municipality traffic designers and officers. The details of such knowledge dissemination greatly depends on the mentioned parties willingness to be engaged by the cycling community. However – organisations taking part in the Project will try to establish a cooperation with all relevant stakeholders and to support each other in the future.

The participants from the countries less advanced in cycling will have an opportunity to learn from most experienced colleagues coming from the leading countries. The 'climber' cities will share their experiences as well, for example bike-lanes implementation in Budapest. All participants will improve their English and acquire new specific vocabulary.

As almost all of the participants rely on volunteers, they will take part in the meetings and share the experience including volunteers involvement.

D.5. European added value

What aspects of the impact and benefits of the Project will result from the specifically European nature of the Project, as distinct from a comparable Project with no transnational dimension?

We can see wide spectrum of cycling achievements in EU. The top position is occupied by the leaders: the Netherlands, Denmark. At the opposite end of the scale we find post-communism and Mediterranean countries. Between two poles lay “middle class” countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium) following by succeeded beginners (Sweden, France, Great Britain, Ireland).

Europe can be proud of Copenhagen or Vienna showing how much may be achieved thanks to the bicycle. The other European cities are now challenged to catch up to this high standard of transportation sustainability, and the EU can play an important role as a facilitator of changes in the right direction. This is a must if Europe wants to be cohesive, and become the sustainable development leader that shows the rest of the World a way ahead for towns and cities. Our Project is an important step towards the big changes that many European cities are waiting for.

Good infrastructure is a crucial condition for increasing bicycle modal share in traffic, but not the only one. It is equally important to promote social changes that increase awareness to the possibilities at hand, through promotional campaigns and educational programs. The participants all have significant experience in this kind of actions, bringing different but highly complementary approaches to the Project. By bringing them together we expect to foster synergies between member countries and promote the propagation of good practices among them. Multi-national points of view and cultural backgrounds will enrich cooperation.

Europe values environment protection, freedom, human rights and open society. Bicycle has very much in common with these principles. According to the quoted opinion of the EESC "Sustainable development calls for commitment and work at grass-roots level. Building such commitment calls for active cooperation from all the social partners, and from all civil society organisations. The public sector must play an important and leading role in promoting sustainability". Having that in mind, we are going to submit the list of needs and problems mentioned in D.3 p.4 to the proper EC institutions as a “cycling citizens voice” and social contribution to future EU policies, strategies, legislation etc.

The cycling social movements often have a strong protest and opposition flavour, especially at the early stage of development. It's probably inevitable, but to some extent counterproductive and leading to negative stereotypes like anarchy or immaturity. One of the objectives of the Project is to help less advanced cycling groups to evolve and become constructive, serious and professional partners. We expect that thanks to the knowledge acquired in the Project its participants will be able to establish fruitful cooperation with the decision makers towards the EU sustainability goals.

D.6. Impact

What impact do you expect partnership activities to have on persons and on the participating institutions?

The persons taking part in the Project will have unusual opportunities to

1. See a wide spectrum of cycling achievements in European cities, especially advanced cycling infrastructure as a pattern to follow.

2. Acquire new knowledge and various good practices, including those not present in their own cities or countries.

We expect that after the Project the participants get

1. better educated in cycling infrastructure requirements and cycling promotion, social participation and civil – municipality cooperation.

2. better motivated to further activities and volunteering towards sustainable transport.

3. integrated as an international network of NGOs and probably ready to further cooperation, joint actions at EU level, etc.

A highly desired outcome is that other institutions involved during the meetings (like designers, municipalities, city halls, city councils, police, media) will become more aware of the needs of cycling. We hope to rise politicians and decision makers awareness that cycling policy is serious ans not only a local but also a European issue.

The Project is well connected with the "European Year of Volunteering" idea. Almost all participants act thanks to people voluntarily engaged in the promotion of cycling. Volunteers will be the biggest group taking part in the Project meetings, including local people. We expect to give much positive power not only to the direct participants, but to indirectly involved people as well, encouraging them to civil activity

The Project will give less advanced participants an occasion to get familiar with 5 basic principles of cycling infrastructure design described in the Dutch manual “Sign Up For The Bike”. Other sources of useful knowledge will also be discussed (such as for example Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities - already quoted above - or European Cycling Lexicon both published by EU.

F.4. Integration into ongoing activities

The Project will be integrated with local activity of every hosting partner. Volunteers will take part in its preparation and conduction. Residents will be invited to the presentations and bicycle trips. It is expected that about 10-50 local people will get involved, depending on how big and popular is the hosting organisation and how many people are interested in cycling.

There is not enough place to mention all Partners' own projects and activities. For example Partner 2 (HU) will link the Project to the local educational program, and Bike Forum and Seminars which is run for volunteers and designers.

The knowledge acquired during the Project will help Participants to introduce similar solutions in their everyday practice. Participants will become more credible and professional partner in relations with municipality or state decision makers, with traffic engineers, designers, business and society. They would get better means of convincing decision makers in their municipalities to follow good patterns, to advice traffic engineers, to teach bicycle users. Participants, especially volunteers will become better motivated and prepared to further activities. It's expected that the Project would instigate the Participants to run various local initiatives which can not be precisely predicted in advance. They will be reported in the final report at the end.

F.5. Evaluation

How will you evaluate, during and after the partnership, whether the aims of the partnership have been met and the expected impact has been achieved?

An assessment form will be filled by all participants after each meeting to acquire feedback and to improve the quality of subsequent meetings. The template of that assessment form will be prepared jointly during the kick-off meeting and improved afterwards if needed.

Every subsequent meeting will include short retrospection self assessment of every Participant concerning how the new experiences from the previous meeting were applied and disseminated.

After each meeting a short report will be prepared including
- agenda;
- list of participants;
- basic points discussed;
- conclusions, comments;
- list of places visited during cycling tours and useful observations made there.

This report will indicate the Project's progress and its preparation will be coordinated by the host with contribution of every guest. At the end of the Project a final summary report will be prepared. It will include topics mentioned before as well as ideas for future cooperation. Every Partner will contribute to some extent.

An assessment form might be filled by the public attending presentations open for local community, organised as a part of each meeting (it's up to the hosting Partner).

Statistics of downloading presentations and visiting websites will be collected to estimate how many people were interested.

F.6. Dissemination and the use of results

How will you disseminate and use the results, experiences and, where applicable, products of the partnership?

The primary means of disseminating will be (obviously) the Internet. Every partner will publish presentations and post-meeting reports on its website.

Each participant hosting a meeting will be encouraged to prepare some accompanying event for wider local group, for example public discussion, press conference, bike trip or critical mass.

The Project's results will be useful in the future, for example participant might present best practices and advices as a speech for city hall officers or urban planners, as a lecture for technicians and engineers professional club, during traffic safety course and so on. The Glossary of key terms will be published on the Internet and will be useful for everybody looking for the meaning or translation of particular term. The Participants will be encouraged to add the most important terms to national edition of Vikipedia.

During the meeting each hosting organisation will try to involve municipal authorities to take part in or host one meeting and encourage local press, radio and TV to cover it. Especially officers responsible for roads and cycling will be welcome. The meeting will be open for local society and advertised in advance, so probably many local people interested in cycling would come. Another element open for public will be the bicycle trip with purpose to see interesting examples of cycling infrastructure.

At the end of the Project in 2013 each participant from the city not advanced in cycling will offer its local traffic designers, road authorities and municipality officers a 2-4 hour course about best practices and principles of cycle-friendly infrastructure. That course will be based on the knowledge and experiences acquired during the Project, including comparing review of various cities. The presentations from that course will be published on the participant's website.


1. Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Outlook for the sustainable development strategy (NAT/440 - CESE 1706/2009, 5 November 2009)

2. Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities

3. Cycling in the Netherlands, 2009, Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat, Fietsberaad

4. European Cycling Lexicon

5. Sign Up For The Bike

6. Charter of Brussels

7. Collection of Cycle Concepts, 2000, Danish Road Directorate

See also

The VOCA project summary [zobacz >>>]