Biking in Brussels: Five doubts and bummers / by Kwinten Lambrecht

Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique recently published some interesting facts about intra-Brussels mobility. In the article called A Bruxelles, le vélo a encore du chemin à faire La Libre summed up the different transport methods in Brussels, below the result in a simple chart:

Brussels' Mobility

Brussels' Mobility

The statistics are quite striking; even for a small distance Les Bruxellois still prefer to use their car instead of green(er) mobility. However, it may be worth to have a closer look at the reasons behind this mentality. Below I've summed up five doubts and five bummers about biking in Brussels. The doubts incorporate the incentives that still outweigh the use of bikes, let's say the working points. The bummers on the other hand are the fundamentals, the arguments that put a giant 'nay' label on even considering biking in Brussels. Also working points I guess.

The doubts

  • Public transport in Brussels cannot follow the expanding number of commuters anymore, some communes are not well reachable (partly Ixelles, Woluwe, Uccle,...) and it's difficult to count on STIB's punctuality
  • Old(er) people tend to use the car more often for small distances, while our generation does not even consider buying a car anymore
  • Taxes: it is often more beneficial for employers to provide a car instead of extra net salary
  • A holistic mobility approach is often not possible, due to the absurdity of having 19 different communes (and stubborn Mayors) and (sometimes more than) three different governments operating in the tiny Brussels Region
  • The power of the motor-industry and the entire lobby which is strongly represented (main argument: 'the economy!')

The bummers

  • Not enough bike lanes (since 2009 only 23 kilometers were constructed, of which only 11 kilometers is separated from the road
  • The Brussels Jungle: drivers will always take advantage of public space when they can. Parking on bike lanes is common practice
  • Brussels' drivers are aggressive when they cannot move passed bikers. Bikers are often being hunted by cars. There's no biking culture (yet) in Brussels, while this is the case in other countries and major cities
  • The lack of public transport integration and cooperation between the different companies like STIB-MIVB, TEC, SNCB, De Lijn etcetera
  • Biking is way too dangerous because bikers are extremely vulnerable. Without any assertiveness you simply cannot survive. As a result you will barely notice children using a bike in Brussels. And this is a very bad sign because the earlier you start biking, the faster it becomes a daily habit and lifestyle