Debating clean mobility on Grand Depart's eve

EESC focuses on cycling and walking for individual wellbeing

Luca Jahier, Alberto Toscano and Pierre Jean Coulon (L-R) at the news conference after the debate.

The importance of clean mobility for the wellbeing of European citizens was once again highlighted at a vibrant event in Brussels, hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and its Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN). This gathering brought inspiring flavour, especially as it was held on the eve of the Grand Depart from Brussels of the 2019 Tour de France.

Cycling is a sport that is often associated with fundamental human values, but first and foremost it is a clean mode of transport. Cycling - and green mobility - are in line with my presidency's focus on sustainable development, said EESC President Luca Jahier.

The Committee has always been very active in this field, promoting environmentally friendly policies and the use of public transport, but also focusing on cycling and walking for individual wellbeing. “We have been at the forefront of raising awareness of the need to do more on urban mobility and we highlighted the potential of cycling, which has now become one of our priorities,” Pierre Jean Coulon, president of the TEN section, stressed.

According to him, accessible, clean and available energy and transport are necessary for the life of Europeans. The challenge was twofold, on the one hand, it was extremely important for people to change their habits, he stated, suggesting “shift from an individual to a collective mindset and tap into the potential of public transport and new forms of mobility, such as carpooling and electric vehicles”. On the other hand, the political authorities had to facilitate this shift, for example by making it less bureaucratic and more affordable. Clean energy and mobility are the future of Europe, he underlined.

Philippe Close, mayor of the city of Brussels, and Christophe Najdovski, deputy mayor of Paris, were among the discussants at the debate. The focus of their interventions was on action taken at local level, as regions and local communities often played a key role in promoting sustainable policies and in innovation.

The book “A bike against Nazi barbarism, the incredible destiny of the champion Gino Bartali”, by the Italian journalist Alberto Toscano, was presented at the event. It reveals the moving story of the Italian cycling champion during the fascist regime.

This book helps us to remember our history as the basis for moving towards a more just and open society, and shows the contribution everyone can make, said the EESC president. Peace should never be taken for granted, he stressed, noting that this book is about one person's commitment to the Jewish people - hence to tolerance and an open society, which are the foundations of peace. Antisemitism is on the rise right now, and this is unacceptable.

Gino Bartali always opposed the Mussolini regime and, by hiding confidential documents in his bike, saved the lives of hundreds of Jews in Italy during the Holocaust. He was a discreet hero. Even after the Second World War was over, he never talked about this.

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