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Rallying cry for more women cyclists in Brussels
Some 200 women got on their bikes on Sunday to highlight the lack of women cyclists in Brussels.
They rode from place Jo Cox, near Ancienne Belgique, named after the female Labour MP murdered in 2016, to Place Bockstael, Laeken, where Anthea Missy’s brightly-coloured fresco of a woman cycling with her hair flowing in the wind was proudly inaugurated.
Unveiled 11 days earlier, Missy said she wanted to portray the freedom and childlikeness of female cycling.
The procession was organised by the Flemish women’s movement Zij-kant (female side). “Women only make up a third of cyclists in Brussels. This is clearly a problem,” said the non-profit organisation’s Julie Van Garsse.
The rally is also part of Brussels’ “Women Bike the City” campaign. This was launched by Brussels officials in collaboration with Zij-kant to increase the number of female cyclists.
“We want to show through this demonstration that cycling is not just a man’s affair,” Van Garsse said. “At the same time, the government should understand that there are still many obstacles to overcome, before more women adopt the bicycle as a mode of transport.”
According to Zij-kant, the major hurdles are that women, particularly as they normally take children on their bikes, do not feel safe enough, Van Garsse explains.
In addition, she says: “The cycling infrastructure is sometimes lacking on routes to crèche, work or shops. Cycle lanes are often too narrow and there are not enough places to park your bicycle.“
The non-profit organisation adds that harassment on the streets is still a problem. “Also, cycling for women is not socially acceptable in certain communities, or in any case it is less so than it is for men and children,” Van Garsse said.
Meanwhile, in a continuing bid to promote the take-up of cycling, Brussels' regional administration announced that its Park+Bike offer will now run to 15 October.
Under this scheme, drivers to the capital can leave their car for free in car parks at the city’s main entrances (for example Parking Basilix Shopping, Brussels Expo or Ceria, Anderlecht) and continue their journey by bicycle.