Mobility

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 :)

Cher Alain by Kwinten Lambrecht

Alain Courtois_Letter_Brief_Lettre.png

Cher Alain, dear Alain,

Look at you, standing bravely on a piece of no man's land between diesel fumes. Well done, you made it to the papers with a nice quote announcing that you would block the construction of cycle lanes on the dangerous Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, even if you had to block it physically.

I will be honest with you, cher Alain, I've had it with politicians of your generation. You are from the same angst generation as the ‘Brexiteers’ and Trump voters among us: conservative, anti-change and changing your opinion whenever it serves your personal interests. You are using fear as an argument to counter progress. 

You are a sports fan, given your previous role at the Belgian Football Association, but you don't want people to use the bike, exercise and stay healthy? You want, and I quote, 'traffic fluidity' in Brussels? You are the Alderman for sports, but you don't want people to move around actively? What is your agenda, Alain? 

I see, you are the Alderman of 'Seniors' too, perhaps they are more receptive to your messages like 'invasion of the bicycle' and 'bullying cars'? We all noticed on your infamous Facebook page that your Senior fans were cheering for you, and your tough language: 'Send that Flamand back to where he belongs!', 'Is he still sick?', 'Well done Alain!'. You are scoring goals for your voters, Alain, well done.

Cher Alain, let's try to use a different argument. What is your view on the impact of car use in our, your city? What about the lungs of your, our children and grandchildren? Do they deserve brown fluids in their lungs or traffic fluidity? Many cities around us, not far away even, are approaching public space, mobility and city life in a completely different way nowadays. Academics, visionary Mayors, researchers, citizens all over the world are striving for a better city. Why? Because we love living in cities, not driving. Thanks to politicians like you Brussels will never be able to lead by example on these matters, but will have to follow with years of backlog.

Cher Alain, how is still possible that you and your 18 other colleagues in other Brussels' municipalities can block or destroy holistic plans, based on arguments such as "that street should be 30cm wider, so we cannot construct cycle lanes"? Your generation of inward-looking politicians will make our generation, which is not afraid of change, lag behind for years to come. The consequences of your short-term 'status quo' policy will have a disastrous impact on us, citizens, and your, yes Alain, your city.

 

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. 

Genre de vie: The happiness of urban life is being rediscovered by Kwinten Lambrecht

Genre de Vie is a documentary film about bicycles, cities and personal awareness. It looks at desired space and our own impact to the process of it. The film documents urban life empowered by the simplicity of the bicycle.

Today we are facing environmental issues more than ever. While architects, urban designers, policymakers and thinkers discuss the future of our cities, more and more people become aware of their own impact and use of space. Genre de Vie uses the bicycle to explore personal awareness and finds out how cycling contributes to the future livability of cities.

Is Brussels about to become a liveable city? by Kwinten Lambrecht

source: AmCham Belgium

source: AmCham Belgium

The American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium asked me to write an op-ed about urban mobility in Brussels for their newsletter/website. You can find the entire text below.

Brussels is a typical example of a car city that was built to meet drivers’ demands rather than to fulfill the criteria of a city that takes care of its citizens.

A weekend trip to the seaside, shopping or bringing your kids to school – our motorized friend appears as a most loyal machine that is able to bring us anywhere. As a result, many European cities were built taking into account the comfort of driving a car in the city: wide streets, central lanes and sometimes even highways were constructed. Brussels is a typical example of a car city that was built to meet drivers’ demands rather than to take care of its citizens.

BINARY CONGESTION

A recent study by Agoria, the Belgian technology industry association, highlights that nine out of 10 people who work in Brussels need 25% more time to reach their destination today than in 2012. Brussels is getting clogged with cars. The fault lies not with the car commuters but rather a miscalculation by consecutive governments which supported and encouraged car use, financially as well as infrastructure-wise. The lack of alternatives, such as protected cycle lanes and car-sharing schemes as well as cuts in public transportation funding, makes it impossible to change this extremely dangerous situation.

Dangerous for companies because they're losing both time and efficiency, but also for Brussels' citizens. Air pollution accounts for thousands of premature deaths in Europe. In Brussels, concentrations of black carbon on large streets are usually 20 times higher than on car-free Sundays. Additionally, noise pollution also puts lives in danger due to higher stress levels.

THE HUMAN SCALE

(Re)designing a city on 'the human scale', as famous architect and urban designer Jan Gehl calls it, is a difficult task which requires brave and visionary politicians, responsible citizens and smart companies. The freshly elected Brussels-Capital Regional Government is pointing heads in the right direction with investments in cycle lanes, more public transportation and plans for 10,000 commuter parking spots around Brussels.

The main problem, however, is the municipalities (the Brussels-Capital Region counts 19), which are still powerful and often block smart decisions. Projects such as constructing new tram lines, organizing additional car-free squares or even creating cycle lanes can all be blocked or delayed by mayors that refuse to adopt a holistic approach when tackling mobility issues. For example, plans to build five new parking lots in the city center are completely counterproductive when you are developing a scheme that connects commuter parking sites to public transportation.

Gradually, many Bruxellois and I hope that we will enter the liveable city era, where the human being is at the center of attention. We need to move forward, raise citizens’ awareness on the health, social and financial costs of a 'car city' and at the same time continue to drive politicians in an alternative direction. Companies can play a big role as well, by offering a mobility budget instead of over-subsidised company cars (in Belgium €2763 per car per year) or by adopting greener behavior such as buying electric bikes and perhaps fishing where the fish are: on the Brussels labor market.

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. 

Cliquez sur l'image pour télécharger les différents sections

Cliquez sur l'image pour télécharger les différents sections

Latest report on cycling injuries in Brussels by Kwinten Lambrecht

The latest report on cycling injuries has just been published by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety (picked up on it via Brusselnieuws). Not surprising, the amount of injured cyclists is increasing year by year. Also the amount of deadly traffic accidents (involving cars or pedestrians) has increased from 45 to 58 victims.

The chart below shows that the number of injuries has increased from only 80 reported injuries to approximately 460 in 2013 (+500%). The only reason our Secretary of State for Mobility, Melchior Watheletet Junior, could possibly think of was the exponential growth of cyclists on our roads. Well, well...

cycling injuries

Source: BIVV

Cycling in Brussels is... by Kwinten Lambrecht

VZW Foyer, the organisation that focuses on the integration of minority groups in Brussels, has come up with some very funny short videoclips about Brussels' mobility. Funny, but also harrowingly 'real' because these are the kind of situations that every cyclist in Brussels encounters on a daily basis. The clips put the fingers on the problem because the actors portrayed in the clips are tomorrow's generation, the children that want to live and love in a liveable and environmentally-friendly city.

The clips are sponsored by the European Commission's 'Do The Right Mix' campaign, which aims to promote the advantages of combining different modes of transportation.