Cycling and human values were honoured at the debate on clean mobility organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and its Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN) on 3 July 2019.
On the eve of the "Grand Départ" from Brussels of the 2019 Tour de France, the EESC, the home of Europe's civil society, welcomed journalist Alberto Toscano, author of the book on the incredible story of Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali during the fascist regime.
We have a moral obligation not to forget, the EESC President, Luca Jahier, pointed out.
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, he added.
A bike for a fairer society
The good is done, but it is not said. And certain medals hang on the soul, not on the jacket: these are the words of Gino Bartali, the Italian cycling champion whose story was told in the book "A bike against Nazi barbarism, the incredible destiny of the champion Gino Bartali". 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 once the Second World War was over, he never talked about this story.
Peace should never be taken for granted, stressed Mr Jahier.
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.
Mr Toscano fully agreed, warning that
those who are attacking Europe today should think of the lessons drawn from the war that are, or were, part of their own family's memories. This is certainly not a good reason to accept everything that Europe does, but it is a great reason to avoid destroying everything.
Cycling, an example of sustainable mobility
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 Mr 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, declared Pierre Jean Coulon, President of the TEN section.
Clean mobility for a sustainable future
Accessible, clean and available energy and transport are necessary for the life of Europeans, highlighted Mr Coulon, who made it clear that the challenge was twofold. On the one hand, it was extremely important for people to change their habits. We had to 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 maintained.
These topics were discussed during the debate on clean mobility, with speakers also including Philippe Close, mayor of the city of Brussels, and Christophe Najdovski, deputy mayor of Paris. The focus was on action taken at local level, as regions and local communities often played a key role in promoting sustainable policies and in innovation.
Clean mobility for a healthier planet and healthier people was the watchword.
We need to strengthen the voice of "normal" people, as the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, said, those who work on a daily basis for the good of others, of our society, concluded Mr Jahier.
These are the people we should be talking about. Forza buoni!
For further information on the work carried out by the EESC's TEN section, please consult our website.