Around 50 members of the EUCG attended this year’s AGM. We were pleased to welcome representatives of the Brussels regional administration and the European Commission’s Office for Infrastructure and Logistics (the OIB). (Copies of their presentations from the EUCG committee are available on request.)
Developing the European Quarter
The Brussels region presented the various scenarios envisaged for the European quarter. The aim of each scenario would be to make the area more pedestrian and cycle-friendly. However, the key decisions still had to be taken at political level and so were delayed at least until after the regional elections in May. Particular reference was made to
- the ongoing project for increasing accommodation and EU office space on both sides of rue de la Loi between Maelbeek and Arts/Loi
- Renewal and better access to parks ( Leopold, Cinquantenaire)
- Renewal of public spaces (Place juordan,and Heyne Garden,
- Better pedestrian and cycle ways linking the parks and the European area
- Greater cultural emphasis e.g. a the Parlementarium and the new Museum of European History (to be opened end 2015)
Commission buildings and mobility
The Commission noted that about 2/3 of Commission staff lived in Brussels region and within 10km of their place of work. We heard the latest thinking within the OIB on the possible locations of future Commission buildings in the next decade and explained the criteria that would be taken into account before making the final decisions. These included the need to reduce staff by 5% in the period 2013-2017, need for more efficiency and better use of space in buildings. Overall, the application of these criteria could lead to a reduction in the Commission’s building stock of about 70,000 sq. metres by 2023. However, the Commission would have to move out of a number of buildings as well. So it would need to develop a number of new office projects covering about 157,000 sq. metres, in the period up to 2022. Decisions on new office projects would take into account distance and accessibility to public transport (multimodal station, train, underground, tram, bus).
During the ensuing debate, members sought clarification on the Commission’s respect for regional rules on parking permits for buildings and on possible plans to restrict traffic in the Schuman area by reducing car lanes and use of tunnels.
The inconsistency of a very high ratio of 44 car parking spaces per 100 staff in Commission buildings compared to 30% of staff driving to work according to internal surveys was pointed out. The Commission also seemed to be buying or renting car parking spaces in nearby public car parks. The EUCG wanted equal treatment of all Commission staff.
A staff representative, speaking on a personal basis, said that his organisation was considering adopting a policy in favour of the abolition of reserved parking spaces as part of its more general policy against privileges. If such a policy were adopted, he would also be in favour of some of the freed up spaces being converted into bike parking spaces.
In reply the Commission confirmed that the Office for Infrastructure and Logistics was trying to reduce car parking but was meeting resistance from motorists. As for spaces in car parks, it was the Building provider who implemented this solution in some cases when the car parking spaces in the building did not correspond to what was in the terms of the tender. With regard to a policy of reserved parking spaces, the OIB had abolished this in its own building and it had also been abolished in the Berlaymont. The OIB encouraged Directors General to eliminate reserved spaces but could not impose this on DGs.
Overview of the activities of EUCG in the previous year
The President, Lewis Dijkstra , reported that in April the EUCG had participated in an action to highlight the lack of secure bike parking in Brussels and the Committee had coordinated comments on the draft Brussels bike parking plan. In September, the committee had held a lunch time debate on equal treatment of all Commission staff commuting to work. It had then finalised a document on this theme which was sent to Vice-President Sefcovic and the OIB as input into their preparation of the Commission’s next five-year staff mobility plan for Brussels. The committee had also cooperated with FietsersBond and Gracq to produce a trilingual brochure on cycling in Brussels and had signed the Flemish code of courteous conduct for cyclists.
In addition the Committee had continued to lobby the Brussels authorities for improved bike lanes in the European quarter. The Committee had also managed to persuade the OIB to buy pumps and patches for Commission garages and to implement an active policy of removing abandoned bikes cluttering up prime parking spaces in garages. The President also noted that during the year the EUCG had lobbied for the Commission to provide training courses to staff on cycling in Brussels but had not yet convinced it, despite the very strong demand from staff. The EUCG had also participated in various stands on information days, welcome days, mobility week etc.. and had leafleted buildings and counted bikes in garages in the weeks prior to the AGM. Membership was now up to 1600 (from about 1400 a year ago) in conclusion he called on volunteers for stands at future events to email firstname.lastname@example.org
The President also noted that although the EUCG would continue to lobby for further improvements, the Commission was already supporting cycling. It provided bike parking in almost all garages and had 239 service bikes available for use by staff in over 47 buildings. Furthermore the Commission had signed up to the Bike-to- Work and Bike Experience schemes and provided technical check-ups and bicycle tours during mobility week.
The president also announced that the committee had organised a competition among the leafleted buildings to identify the one with the best ratio of parked bikes to occupants. This turned out to be 27 rue Joseph II( DG Employment),with a ratio of 18.3%, possibly due to the fact that the bike racks were easily accessible, so that staff from less favoured neighbouring buildings also parked their bikes there. Overall the committee had counted over 1600 bikes used on a daily basis in the Institutions’ garages as surveyed by the EUCG.
In conclusion the President highlighted priorities for the following year including:
- Improving safety and comfort of cycling
- Encouraging the Commission to improve staff mobility policy, in particular by aiming for a 10% cycling share in commuting ( from an estimated 6/7% at present)
- Organising an open workshop on how to improve staff mobility (20 May: 12.30-14.30)
- Organising a lunch time presentation by Dr John Pucher of Rutgers University, New jersey, and the University Transportation Research Center, New York, USA
Overview of the finances
It was reported that the EUCG remained solvent with assets totalling € 70 cash including €27 in the bank account plus 10 fluorescent vests worth €50 and 15 maps worth €15
During the previous year year, the only expenses incurred had been €40 for the website domain and the hosting costs.
Election of the EUCG committee
The members present elected unanimously the new committee for 2014/2015, and re-elected
Lewis as president
In the ensuing debate Members raised the following issues:
- The need more showers and lockers in the institutions’ buildings.
- A suggestion to liaise with the stagiaires as well as new officials in the Institutions
- Congratulations to the Committee for their success in getting the OIB to deal with. abandoned bikes and also for the leafleting campaign
In conclusion, The President thanked members for their congratulations. He confirmed that the incoming committee would continue to follow up on the issues raised by members with the Institutions. He also suggested that a representative of the stagiaires should attend the first meeting of the incoming EUCG committee on Thursday 3 April in CCAB, rue Froissart at 13.00.