Conference: How cycling in the Alps contributes to more sustainable tourism

Bern, 22.04.2021 - Traffic and tourism have a strong climatic and ecological impact on the sensitive Alps. The pressure from tourism, especially mobility, is growing, while space and ecological capacities are limited. The Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE addressed this issue in MoVe the Alps, an international online conference held on 22 April 2021. Sustainable cycling tourism was at the centre of the discussions. The conference was supported by the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention and the Federal Roads Office FEDRO.

Cycling is enjoying a boom, especially thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bicycle is a preferred means of transport for everyday life as well as for leisure and holidays – often also in the Alpine region. Holidaymakers who cycle emit virtually no greenhouse gases. As a result, they can help Switzerland and its Alpine neighbours to achieve their climate targets. Yet there are some challenges associated with cycling tourism: the capacity for bicycles on public transport is reaching its limits, especially at peak times, and cycling is not always well considered in infrastructure planning. Around 150 representatives from the tourism industry, associations, railway companies and public administrations from the entire Alpine region discussed these topics at the MoVe the Alps conference. The meeting was organised under the auspices of the Swiss presidency of the Alpine Convention. Climate protection in the Alpine region is one of Switzerland's priorities during its presidency.

The Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Protection, Leonore Gewessler, addressed the issue of bicycle transport in public cross-border traffic in her welcoming address. She called on the tourism industry and cycling community to work together to improve their interaction. Frank Hoffmann, the national chairman of the German cycling club Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club, stated that good coordination between the federal government and the states is required if bicycle tourism is to contribute to changes in transport use. Ed Lancaster, director of EuroVelo, presented a project to integrate the EuroVelo network into the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and to complement the TEN-T with additional cycling infrastructure. The participants also looked in some depth at how tourist areas can position themselves as cycling destinations and thus contribute to regional development. Lukas Stadtherr, member of the Executive Board of SwitzerlandMobility, showed that digital developments will have a strong influence on cycling tourism in the future. He presented the example of SwitzerlandMobility, which has developed cycling and walking possibilities and publishes these on its website.

Promoting climate-friendly transport, whether in cycling tourism or with the modal shift policy (road-to-rail), plays a central role for the ARE as the Confederation's overall transport coordinator and responsible for the implementation of Switzerland's sustainability policy. The MoVe the Alps conference launches a dialogue on the promotion of climate-friendly transport in Alpine tourism which the ARE will continue during the next two years of the Swiss Presidency of the Alpine Convention.

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Federal Office for Spatial Development