Skip to main content

UNECE and WHO workshop promotes cycling and walking in cities

UNECE and WHO workshop promotes cycling and walking in cities

Finding sustainable and healthy ways to move about in urban areas -- such as linking attractive public transport services with cycling and walking zones -- was the topic of a workshop held at the Kiev City Hall on 8 and 9 June 2011. Growing congestion, time loss, pollution and lack of parking space are a major challenge for urban transport planners. At the same time, physical inactivity has become one of the leading risk factors for health and is estimated to cause about one million deaths per year in the WHO European Region.  
Many commuters in large cities, such as Kiev, could be induced to walk or bike from home to work or to the nearest metro station, if adequate and safe infrastructure facilities were provided, along with efficient public transport, and if traffic and car parking rules were enforced to make human-powered mobility attractive and safe..
Cycling and walking are examples of environment- and health-friendly modes of transport that contribute to lower noise and air pollution in our cities, reduce traffic crashes and urban congestion, increase the attractiveness of city centers and are a boost to public health due to increased physical activity. National and local policies are needed to support walking and cycling as attractive and viable modes of urban mobility and as an integral part of transport and city planning on par with public transport and car traffic.
The latest in a series of capacity-building events held under the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), the Kiev workshop was organized by UNECE and WHO/Europe in cooperation with the Ukrainian Ministries of Health, Infrastructure and Environment and the Kyiv City State Administration.
The World Health Organization has estimated that 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking and cycling, throughout a week shows positive health effects in terms of morbidity and mortality. 30 minutes of walking or cycling per day could reduce coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases by 20-30%, colon cancer by 30% and overall premature mortality by almost one third. Walking and cycling can also be an enjoyable way to do shopping, go to work and to spend leisure time, contributing to lower levels of stress and better quality of urban life.
Around half of the trips we make with our cars in Europe are shorter than 5 km and a third of our car trips are less than 3 km. Many of these trips could be made by public transport and/or by walking and cycling. As a rule of thumb, walking is suitable for distances of up to 1 km or 15 minutes; and cycling for distances of up to 5 km or 20 minutes.
A systemic approach to human-powered mobility requires new thinking by transport and city planners. It requires initiatives and support from national Governments - municipalities cannot do it alone. It requires an integration of car parks, public transport and walking and cycling networks and appropriate infrastructure. It requires education, training for motorists and cyclists and a change in public perception. And it requires money and the political will to do things differently.  Fortunately, several European countries and cities are already leading the way and their experiences are shared trough events such the Kiev workshop.
The workshop identified strategies, policies and measures to promote innovative policies to support walking and cycling as increasingly viable and attractive modes of urban mobility.

As such, the focus of this THE PEP workshop was on cooperation between national and local authorities, industry and civil society in design, planning, financing and legislation to support walking and cycling – best practices on translating national policy objectives into local action.
The workshop was preceded by a technical expert mission sponsored by the Government of France to discuss with Government officials, city planners and civil society groups the management of urban mobility and to review appropriate technologies and procedures for effective signs and signaling in urban areas.  Financial assistance for THE PEP workshop was provided by Austria, France, Norway and Switzerland.
The workshop contributed to concrete action points urging policymakers, industry and civil society to:
  • Accept walking and cycling in urban areas as an integral part of transport and urban development planning and policy, on par with public transport and car traffic.
  • Establish a national policy and legal framework for sustainable and healthy urban transport that supports regional and municipal goals for land-use planning, transport, health and the environment.
  • Improve institutional coordination and cooperation among public authorities – horizontally and vertically - towards transport, health and the environment policy integration.
  • Encourage effective public participation, partnership and communication, incl. regular user surveys on urban, particular public transport systems to identify critical issues and corrective measures.

For further information, please visit or contact the UNECE-WHO/Europe joint secretariat at [email protected]
Martin Magold
UNECE Transport Division
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2453
E-mail: [email protected]
Christian Schweizer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Phone: +3906 487 7533
E-mail: [email protected]
Jean Rodriguez
Senior Public Information Officer
UNECE Office of the Executive Secretary
Phone:+41 (0)22 917 2727
E-mail: [email protected]

Note to editors:
THE PEP, established in 2002, aims to bring together key players from the transport, health and environment sectors on an equal footing. THE PEP pools capacities and skills from Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia and North America: translating national policy into local action. It offers a platform for countries to share information and know-how and benefit from experience. By integrating transport, health and environment policies, THE PEP contributes to a greener economy, safeguarding health and the environment.
At the Third High-level Meeting on Transport, Health and Environment in January 2009, governments adopted the Amsterdam Declaration -- Making THE Link, Transport choices for our Health, Environment and Prosperity, giving renewed political impetus to THE PEP and agreed 4 priority goals to be reached by 2014 and concrete mechanisms to achieve them. The goals are:
No. 1: To contribute to sustainable economic development and stimulate job creation through investment in environment- and health-friendly transport.
No. 2: To manage sustainable mobility and promote a more efficient transport system.
No. 3: To reduce emissions of transport-related greenhouse gases, air pollutants and noise and
No. 4: To promote policies and actions conducive to healthy and safe modes of transport.
On the basis of the renewed work plan for 2009-2014, concrete projects are developed by THE PEP Steering Committee, composed of UNECE and WHO/Europe Member State representatives from the transport, environment and health sectors, in cooperation with international and non-governmental organizations.
THE PEP is run jointly by UNECE (Transport and Environment Divisions and the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe. 
Ref: ECE/TRANS/11/P12

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 12 34

Email: [email protected]

Reproduction is permitted provided that the source is acknowledged.