The platform for Belgium's international community

Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Cyclist fatalities increase by more than 20%

09:43 12/12/2018

While the number of fatal car accidents involving motorists in Belgium have decreased this year, fatalities involving cyclists are up. The figures come from the third-quarter road safety barometer published by the Vias Institute.

The number of deadly traffic accidents involving motorists in the first nine months of 2018 have decreased overall by 4.6% on the same period last year. There were 333 deaths of drivers and passengers, 16 fewer than last year, and an all-time low for Belgium for the period. Personal injuries were also down slightly.

The figures show a major improvement over 10 years ago when the number of deaths of motorists  numbered nearly 650 in the first nine months of the year. Federal mobility minister Francois Bellot was pleased with the trend, but pointed out that a 4.6% decrease was not enough to ensure his department’s goal of less than 420 fatalities by 2020.

“We recently saw the first convictions of drunk drivers that resulted in an alcohol lock,” said Bellot, “and more will follow. This will help us in our fight against alcohol behind the wheel. Other measures taken against repeat offenders should also begin to bear fruit.”

Cycle and motorcycle deaths up

For cyclists in Belgium, the news is less good: Accident-related deaths increased by 21%. While in the first nine months of 2017, the number of cyclist fatalities was 33, this year it was 40. According to the barometer, there was a similar trend for motorcyclists, from 51 to 57 deaths, for an increase of 11%.

“Flanders saw most of the increase in the number of fatalities of cyclists,” said Vias in a statement. “For motorcyclists, we see the biggest increase in Wallonia. The weather, with many sunny days and little rain definitely played a role in these trends.”

In related news, anyone using a super-fast electric bicycle in Belgium must now have a number plate. The new law came into force yesterday. It applies to S-Pedelecs, which have motors greater than 250w and can therefore reach speeds of up to 45 kilometres an hour.

Riders of S-Pedelecs, which are classified as mopeds, must also be 16 or older, wear a helmet and possess a driving licence for a moped or car. Anyone caught breaking the law can be fined €116.

Written by Lisa Bradshaw



I am a very experienced cyclist.
#1 Belgians generally don't wear bicycle helmets, I have NO idea why not, it is BEYOND weird. There needs to be a helmet law.
#2 Riding in the city is extremely dangerous, with few people respecting the limited bicycle lanes that are available.
#3 Older riders need to be educated, they need to understand that they are not teenagers anymore. The age group with the most accidents are "males in the 55 and over group."

Dec 12, 2018 09:57

In some places helmets laws have been reversed because studies showed that they were dangerous because they make it hard for the wearer to hear traffic.

I ride everywhere in Brussels every day; it is not particularly dangerous. The number of bike lanes etc has been growing substantially the past five years.

There has been marked increase in the number of riders so the last year, this should be taken into consideration when figures are touted.

Dec 12, 2018 11:52
Timothy Cooper

I am also a very experienced cyclist.
#1 I don't wear a helmet. While helmet-wearing undoubtedly reduces the risk of death and injury when a head hits a hard surface at high speed, the effect is limited. A helmet provides sufficient protection in impacts up to 23 km/h. At higher speeds there is some protection, but not enough to prevent injury. The real problem is the lack of safe cycling infrastructure and the excessive speed of motor vehicles. Helmet laws lead to a reduction in cycling levels, and the associated reduction in exercise contributes to ill-health which causes far more premature deaths than cycling accidents. Making helmet-wearing compulsory for car drivers and car passengers would save far more lives than making it compulsory for cyclists.
#2 Riding in cities is relatively safe, and is getting safer. Learning how to ride assertively (e.g. by following the GRACQ À vélo dans le trafic training course), wearing bright clothing, using lights when it is dark, and making sure your bike is in good order (brakes, etc.) are all more important than wearing a helmet.
#3 All riders need to be educated, as do all drivers.

Dec 12, 2018 14:41

Timothy Cooper hits the nail on the head. Nice to see a sensible reaction to an article about cycling in Brussels.

One thing we don't need is a "helmet law" - whatever that might be.

Dec 12, 2018 16:08

At least 50% of cyclists (especially in Brussels) don't have lights on their bikes.
An awful lot of them cheerfully disregard the highway code.
A fair number of them appear to believe that Article 29bis WAM will invariably protect them from harm, which is... blatantly untrue!

Dec 13, 2018 07:31

You people are completely and absolutely wrong about helmets. It is the bicycle industry that actually lobbies against helmet laws because studies have shown that when there are mandatory helmet laws, fewer bicycles are sold. There needs to be a helmet law and I agree that lights should probably be mandatory also. Everyone one of you reading this that actually believes that helmets are not necessary, I promise you, the day will come when you will wish you had listened to me. I have been riding since 1962, and I have seen what happens when a head is protected by a helmet and I have seen heads literally split open from not wearing one. The End

Dec 14, 2018 10:16

I will admit that there is another study that claims that motorists drive closer to cyclists with helmets on, then cyclists without helmets. I say this in the name of "intellectual honesty." But it is an imperfect world. If you are a parent and you allow your child to ride in the streets of Brussels without lights and a helmet, shame on you.

Dec 14, 2018 10:18

and one very last people who fail to wear helmets, fail to display proper lighting front and rear, AND wear dark or even black clothing while riding...simply paint a "bullseye target" on your back.

Dec 14, 2018 10:20

and timothy are anything BUT an "experienced" cyclist....or you would not be trying to give such bad advice

Dec 14, 2018 10:22