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

I was Europe for one week by Kwinten Lambrecht

Last week I was curator number 13 of the I am Europe Twitter account. It's a project that was started by an Italian student (@arajacorp) and is similar to 'national' accounts such as @sweden for example. Through the account may nationalities can talk and engage beyond the so-called Brussels Bubble. Not only about European politics or the institutions, but mainly about life in general and the specificities of every country in Europe. 

Here are some of my highlights:

  • Crowd sourcing artists from my followers, resulting in new pins on my Art and Visuals Pinterest board
  • The #AskaBelgian questions that I was able to respond to, from my favorite dish to Belgian politics
  • Conversations about the next EU Commission President
  • The various exchanges with loyal followers about the birds and the bees

It was a fantastic week and I will miss it, I truly believe that initiatives like these can bring people together and can shine a different light on one's perception of the world. 

Below you can find all the tweets that I've sent during my week (6-13 April 2014).

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. 

Hövding: The airbag for bikers by Kwinten Lambrecht


What started as a master thesis project could become one of the biggest biking innovations of the last years. Back in 2005 two industrial design students from Sweden invented Hövding after the government had introduced a law that made biking helmets compulsory for children up to 15 years old. A lot of people argued that helmets should have been made compulsory for all age categories and this got the two female innovators thinking. As we all know, and certainly the fashion victims among us, wearing a helmet is not that sexy and trendy. Hövding could be your haircut saver!

Bikers simply need to wear a big scarf around their neck, and when the sensors track unusual shocks the airbag jumps out and shields the entire head and neck in a split second. Enormously inventive and completely safe and sound, according to research. Below you'll discover how a concept became reality in the Hövding promo video, made by Bikes vs. Cars director Fredrik Gertten. Enjoy!

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