Cycling

Spending your holidays in Mallorca? Do it differently. by Kwinten Lambrecht

Last month (end of September 2017) we spent a week of lovely holidays in Mallorca. If you google 'Mallorca' a lot of (at least for me) doom scenarios pop up: mega resorts, full beaches, tourist menus, etc. Now, for many people Mallorca is a dream destination to enjoy the sun, eat well, and repeat these actions day in, day out. We practically did the same, but differently.

Once you arrive in Palma Airport you can feel the pressure of people rushing to taxis, rental car company signs everywhere and a lot of people swirling around. We decided to spent one night in Palma before going to a bike shop called 'Nano Bicycles'. We reserved two e-bikes, with which we could cycle around 50km to 60km per day. E-bikes were in our case a good option since we travelled with 4 bike bags (yep, that's enough for one week!). 

A different approach

Mallorca is not a 'cycling island' a such; a lot of people (tourists) bike on the island, but only for sport. But nevertheless locals know how to keep distance when they overtake you (more than in Brussels!). Most of the traffic in Mallorca is caused by rental cars. The owner of the agroturismo where we stayed said that during summer months (May-October), the amount of cars triples. 

Our approach was different, usually far away from highways, surrounded by olive, almond and citrus trees. It's a parallel circuit that gives you so much joy, since you really feel that you are traveling. You see changing landscapes, you can pause and relax, smell, feel and above all you are outside performing sports! 

People often think you are a hero when you bicycle. We often get reactions like 'Wow, did you cycle all the way here, we're so proud of you!'. That's because people lost their notion of time and space, because renting or using a car is so damn easy. Again, we also took a cab to the airport, but I think people should start applying 'the right mix' more and more - keeping in mind what you can do for yourself (doing sport, saving money, the joy of the experience), and others (health costs, costs for society to build roads) when you'd cycle more often.

Some tips

Anyway, cycling in Mallorca was an eye-opener because we got to see so many beautiful places, in a fantastic way. If you wish to spend your holidays on two wheels in Mallorca (or another destination) here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Reserve a bicycle in advance, at a bike shop with good reviews
  • Take some sport clothes or special pants, it could get hot outside (and inside!)
  • Use two bike bags, from Ortlieb for example, per person. The size is allowed as carry-on luggage
  • A smartphone holder
  • A smartphone to calculate your itinerary, and an external battery
  • Reusable water bottles
  • A smile on your face :)

Stop perceiving Copenhagen as a 'tourist attraction' by Kwinten Lambrecht

Summer is over, blogging can start again!

In the beginning of the Summer we spent a couple of weeks in Stockholm and Copenhagen, both example cities when it comes to quality of life, public space and well-being.

Copenhagen struck me the most, thanks to its fantastic cycle lanes, infrastructure and places to innovate, dine, drink and hang out. We were lucky to get some insider tips from my good friend Kristoffer, that helped a lot!

Still, I often hear from people that "Copenhagen is great, it's the cycling walhalla". Suddenly, even car freaks start to enjoy cycling. The natural reflex, even from tourists, is to leave their car at home and to cycle multiple kilometers in the city, even when it rains! For them, it's almost a tourist attraction to see all those Danes cycle day in day out. 

That brings me to the most critical point: policy makers in Copenhagen have designed their city on the human scale. It's not 'Disneyland', it's not made like this because cycling is 'fun'. No, the city serves its citizens, with fantastic parks, places to swim, streets where kids can play and cycle lanes that almost hug you as a result.

Copenhagen Swimming Pool - LAMBYK

Once home, tourists get back in their cars and tell each other that they had a great cycling holiday. Point final. The car life continues. And you cannot blame them. Since our policy makers have made it so difficult to cycle that you are still considered to be a lunatic when you tell them you "came by bike". Company cars, terrible infrastructure, non-visionary politicians, .... It's a dangerous, conservative cocktail that needs to be served in the gutter for once and for all. 

The potential to get people on a bike exists, you just have to provide them with the luxury that they encounter in 'cycling city' Copenhagen. Simply waiting for thousands of daredevils who take the streets of Brussels (and Flanders & Wallonia) is a bit too optimistic, I believe...

Copenhagen - LAMBYK

Why a critical mass is critical for a sustainable city. by Kwinten Lambrecht

Each last Friday night of the month cyclists worldwide take the streets for a bike tour in their city. The main goal? To raise awareness about the vulnerability of cyclists in the busy streets of cities that were transformed into car paradises tens of years ago. A full explanation on what the Critical Mass is about can be found in this nice Facebook Live video that Marco Ricorda aka Marcorecorder and I shot just before taking of on Friday 26 May.

Critical Mass Brussels - Lambyk

Why so critical?

After a stop at Place Meiser, where a cyclist was almost killed, the temperature was increasing rapidly. Not only because of the nice weather but also because the police got involved, gently asking us to move on. On the Montgomery roundabout (a nightmare for cyclists and pedestrians) two citizens, driving respectively a Porsche Cayenne and a Porsche Boxer, felt that they had lost enough of their precious time because of cyclists getting in their way. They started to shout and insult and even threatened a guy that next time he would 'kill him'.

The police got nervous, some photos were taken, a police officer completely lost it and started pushing and punching a young man who was holding a camera. The police officer in question, probably still massively stressed after Trump's visit, arrested the young man 'administratively' and yelled at other cyclists (we were more than 200) to "allez, vas-y rouler un peu". From her tone of voice you could feel that the police officer did not have a big affiliation with two wheels. Perhaps except during weekends. After some diplomatic interventions, the Porsche guys left (with roaring engines) and cycling citizens (with bells) went for a drink.

It wasn't the nicest and most human scene to witness but it brings me to a couple of points I'd like to raise:

  • The saying 'You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic' is (again) super relevant in this case. People often get mad, nervous or start honking when you are cycling in front of them, even when you are alone. Not all of them of course, but many car drivers went completely crazy because they had to wait for a couple of cyclists while each and every day they are stuck in traffic, usually alone, together with thousands of other cars. Where's the logic?
  • This kind of incident is absolutely not worth repeating since it's not a battle between cars and bikes, but human beings. I could easily opt to drive around in a car, because I'll be able to listen to music and have air-conditioned seats but many people opt for the bike because it is fast, reliable, healthy and good for the city. People underestimate the power of sustainable transport as a driver for growth, better air quality and less social costs for example. 
  • You cannot blame car drivers. They are being pushed in this comfortable position, with magnificent company car and even prepaid cards to purchase fuel by our own politicians who are supposed to serve the greater good. We can also add to that years of disinvestment in public transport and decent cycle lanes. Conclusion? Our governments have turned us into car addicts.
  • Last but not least: let's not create a 'community' of cyclists, because it will make 'us' look more like activists. Instead, talk about 'Brusselers using the bicycle'. We need to get rid of the bike as a symbol for hippies and green boys, because in the end anyone will enjoy the benefits of a cycling city.

See you at the next critical mass? 

Critical Mass Brussels - Lambyk

The missing cycling links of Brussels by Kwinten Lambrecht

Recently Strava has made available heatmaps of cycling and running behaviour in cities. The maps 'only' include data from Strava users but when we look at the map we can immediately have an overview of where people cycle and where not. In the picture below we are only looking at the centre of Brussels but it's clear that there are many missing links.

The inner ring around South station is not used frequently according to data, while the inner ring near Rogier/Botanique is! Recently separated bike lanes were built in this area, which makes it more safe for cyclists to ride there. On the Boulevard du Midi and Abattoir cyclists have to share the road , surrounded by white lanes. But often cars park on the cycle lanes and speed limits are ignored massively. 

People use the separated cycling lanes on Rue de la Loi a lot while Belliard, which has not even proper pavements, is almost not frequented.

Other examples include the Rue Blaes and rue Haute, and again a lack of infrastructure could be the reason for less cycling. Or Rue Laeken, which could be the perfect connector between Brussels South and North. 

One can hope that policy makers will analyse these data to connect the missing links and to work together with each other. Since Brussels has 19 different municipalities it's not obvious that municipalities will solve the missing links by cooperating and communicating with one another.

The very light green lanes should become red hot heat in the coming years. That's what we expect from politicians with a 'vision hero'.

Driving costs, cycling benefits by Kwinten Lambrecht

Cool visual right? We all know that cycling contributes to a healthy life, but also to a more wealthy society. Researchers have just published a new study called 'Transport transitions in Copenhagen: Comparing the cost of cars and bicycles', which found that cars resulted in way more costs than benefits for individuals and society.

The cost of cars

  1. Climate change: 0.005 €/km none for cycling
  2. Noise pollution: 0.007 €/km none for cycling, does that ring a bell? :-)
  3. Congestion (cost of delays): 0.62 €/km none for cycling

The cost of bicycles

  1. Accident costs: 0.106 €/km (more exposed and vulnerable to injury), 0.022 €/km for cars
  2. Time costs: 0.67 €/km, while 0.26 €/km for cars. But it's relaxing to be on a bike!

The biggest benefit that researchers found was the increased life expectancy and fewer sick days, worth € 0.741 per cycled kilometre. 
After calculating all the costs and benefits of both transport means, researchers concluded that the combined individual and societal costs of driving a car were 0.50 €/km compared to 0.08 €/km for cycling. When only considering the costs and benefits for society, rather than the individual, one kilometre by car costs €0.15, whereas society earns €0.16 for every kilometre cycled.

Investing in a cycling culture costs money, but also courage from non-visionary politicians. These economic and societal arguments are a fantastic basis to further expand cycling cities, but also to get rid off our car-centred thinking. Cars are just not that good for you. 

Belgique 21 interview about cycling expats in Brussels by Kwinten Lambrecht

My infographic about cycling expats in Brussels was quite popular. It was picked up by several Belgian media and also The Bulletin and New Europe reported on it. On top of that I was asked by TV station Belgique 21, which targets French expats living in Belgium, to give an interview about the current cycling situation in Brussels. You can watch the interview below.

What expats think of cycling in Brussels by Kwinten Lambrecht

Belgians love cycling. Since Eddy Merckx we've had more cycling champions than we’ve played World Cup football games. Needless to say, cycling is a part of Belgian DNA. And although everybody loves cycling as a sport, it still hasn't become a habit to use a bike instead of a car to bridge short distances. That's one of the reasons why a lot of cities in Belgium lack decent cycling infrastructure and thus cycling culture.

As an experienced cyclist in Brussels I have fallen victim to insults and aggressive behaviour quite a lot now. Moreover it’s extremely frustrating that roads, even big avenues, lack sufficient and safe cycle lanes. In most cases you have to share the road with cars on so-called cycle lanes, which are often driven or parked on. The suggestion marks (painted bicycles on the road) are even worse and have no legal force. They just warn drivers that cyclist 'might ride here too'.

Brussels is rich in its diversity, and among different cultures living here there's also a well-represented (EU) expat community living and breathing the city. I know that a lot of my friends think similarly about the current, often dangerous situations on the road.

But what's the opinion of expats regarding cycling in Brussels? To determine this I launched an online mini-survey which focused on bicycle safety, cycling lanes, the bike-sharing system Villo! and the possible solutions to the problem.

In total 202 people responded to the survey in a period of nearly three weeks (24 January - 12 February). Promotion was principally done via Twitter. The results below are quite striking!

Click on the infographic in order to download separate visuals

Click on the infographic in order to download separate visuals

I want to thank graphic designer Bert Sap for designing this infographic. 

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Cliquez sur l'image pour télécharger les différents sections