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More people are choosing to bike in Brussels, according to latest survey

14:14 05/05/2022

The latest survey from the Pro Velo Cycling Observatory indicates a rise in the number of people choosing to navigate the Belgian capital by bike. 

“The Brussels cycling community is growing and diversifying, and that's a good thing,” said Elke Van den Brandt, Brussels minister for mobility.

“Cycling is synonymous with freedom for many people. Our goal is to continue to build a safe and comfortable cycling infrastructure, so that the number of people cycling can continue to grow and everyone can arrive at their destination safely.”

Pro Velo uses automatic counts on cycling paths, plus manual counts, to gauge cycling activity in the city. 

They noted that while “2020 was marked by an incredible boom in cycling,” the pandemic had an effect on figures: “The morning rush hour flows, measured manually by Pro Velo between 8.00 and 9.00, had recorded a drop compared to 2019, explicitly linked to the lockdown periods imposed by the health crisis.”

While the pandemic took its toll in terms of the number of cyclists on the road for their work commute, numbers for 2021 were 10.5% higher than for 2020.

“This means that the upward trend that began in the early 2000s is continuing - despite the significant drop in 2020. The average annual growth since 2010 is therefore around 11%.”

More women, children and electric bicycles

As the number of cyclists increases, the gap between men and women on bicycles is closing: women now account for 42% of cyclists in the city. 

“Since the beginning of the Bicycle Observatory, the proportion of women on bicycles has systematically increased,” the cycling association said.

While the number of cyclists wearing helmets increased from a minority in 2017 to 62% in 2021, women remain more likely to wear one then men. Brussels has at times debated making helmets mandatory, but Van den Brandt is opposed, saying it would slow down rates of growth for cycling. 

More children are also being found on a bicycle in Brussels, though more likely towed by parents than behind the handlebars. 

“Of all the bicycles counted, 19% were equipped with child-carrying devices, 3% more than in 2020. Of these, 43% were cargo bikes intended for this purpose (family cargo bikes), compared to 36% in 2020, 30% in 2019 and only 12% in 2018.”

And though electric bikes remain the minority in the Belgian capital at just 30%, that number represents an increase of 3% in just one year.

“More and more efforts have been made in Brussels to accommodate cyclists, more and more infrastructure has been built in recent years, even if there is still work to be done,” said Anne Le Roux, spokesperson for Pro Velo.

“At the very beginning of our counts, it was much rarer to come across an electric bike. Today, there are a multitude of models, at different prices. More and more people are also deciding to cycle to work because they realise that after a certain number of kilometres, taking an electric bike is preferable than taking a conventional bike.”

Le Roux was also pleased to see the increase in the number of women choosing to cycle. 

“It is a choice for women – it appears from our studies that they are more motivated by their well-being and health. Cycling is clearly a tool for well-being and a good answer for good health,” Le Roux said.

“More and more bicycles can also be used to carry loads, or transport children. We know that many women take their children to school in the morning, and it is they who take care of this task in the family. The fact that there are cycling solutions to take children to school, with cargo bikes or specific equipment, encourages women to take up cycling.”

Key Figures

86% Bicycles secured with a good lock (up 6%)

30% Share of electric bicycles, compared with 27% in 2021 (3% increase)

31% Average occupancy rate of bicycle parking facilities at metro and train stations

9%  Share of cargo bikes

5%  Bikes with a mybike.brussels sticker

75% Bikes equipped with good lighting

2%  Share of Villo! bikes

9%  Share of folding bikes

 

 

Written by Helen Lyons