MASSIVE INCREASE IN BIKE LANE USE AND GROWING INFRASTRUCTURE
The streets of Brussels are changing. The massive increase in the use of bike lanes is continuing and it has not become obvious that it was not just a momentary surge due to the pandemic.
Many of stretches of Brussels bike lanes are brimming with pelotons of various “vulnerable road users” that have a few things in common: they prefer wheels, they find both driving and walking too slow and they don’t use combustion engines. The revolution underway is not just about the good old private muscle-powered bicycles. There has been an massive surge in the use of all sorts of forms of zero-emissions, individual, light, transport on – usually – two wheels, such as electric bicycles, shared bicycles, cargo bicycles, family bikes, trottinettes, delivery bikes, tricycles, bicycles with trailers and gyroscopic monocycles.
The subjective observations are backed by numbers from the traffic counters on bike lanes. The monthly traffic volume in September on the bike lane on rue de la Loi/Wetstraat increased two-fold (by 104.7%) since 2019, threefold (by 200.9%) on the Quai des Charbonnages/Koolmijnenkaai in Molenbeek along the canal and by 139% on Boulevard Poincaré/-laan near the South Station. This is a clear sign of historic shift. Cycling in Brussels is no more an activity reserved for the crazy sporty types. The crowd using the bike lanes has become much more diverse. One could argue that it has been the electrification of cycling that has achieved the break-through the we are observing. Especially that Brussels is a relatively hilly city and electrification has made cycling a less sweaty affair and therefore much more compatible with the office etiquette than the pure muscle-powered bicycles.
Furthermore, three new bridges have made cycling from the North of Brussels easier. 5th October saw inauguration of the Suzan Daniel bridge which formidably simplifies crossing the Canal between the North Station and Tour and Taxis. The bridge features a 6-meter-wide bicycle and pedestrian zone, separated from the 7-metre-wide carriageway for public transport.
This welcome development follows the opening in September 2021 of two light bridges over the Canal. The bridge at the Comte de Flandre / Graaf van Vlaanderen metro station is named after women's rights campaigner Loredana Marchi, while the bridge at the Mima museum bears the name of the Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi.
To complete the picture, new makeovers of public roads are happening in many strategic points in Brussels, e.g. between Botanique/Kruidtuin and Rogiers and near metro Yser/IJzer. To conclude the story, despite the shaky economic environment, bike stores have been mushrooming. Or perhaps one should say that it is precisely because of the economic downturn, inflation and high energy prices that more people have recognised cycling as a cheap alternative for moving around town. This economic arguments complements the long list of advantages of urban cycling. Cycling not only keeps you fit and reduces pollution but it saves you a lot of money too.