Travel: We look at the many initiatives encouraging us to saddle up – Brussels by Bike!
2019 is a year like no other for Brussels. This year, Brussels is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Tour de France victory of Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx, as well as being the starting point (Grand Départ) for the 2019 Tour de France. A unique occasion for the European capital to both celebrate cycling and honour its cultural heritage.
Cycling in Brussels: Brussels boasts no fewer than 218km of cycle paths. The
Brussels-Capital region has seen the number of cyclists double over the last five years. This upward trend, observed since the beginning of the century, has continued with an average annual increase of 13% since 2010. (source: Brussels Bike Observatory).
Brussels has changed over the years and has given more and more space to bikes. The infrastructure still isn’t perfect, but things are improving every year. Laying out cycle paths, creating new parking for bikes, increasing the 30km/h zones, just some of the many initiatives, both public and private, that encourage the people of Brussels to get on their bikes.
Bike for Brussels: With Bike for Brussels, Brussels Mobility (regional public service in charge of transport throughout the whole Brussels-Capital region) aims to put Brussels residents in the saddle. In order to do this, the service is supporting several Brussels organisations who promote cycling in the capital. Good parking maps, suggestions of routes to get around the city safely or even key bike-repair places, these organizations communicate with cyclists every day to make cycling in the city easier for them. For more information visit: bike.brussels/en/
Brussels Environment for a greener city: Brussels has more than 8,000 hectares of green spaces, making up almost half the area. From the huge Sonian Forest (Forêt de Soignes) to the Bois de la Cambre, many green areas in Brussels are accessible by bike. To preserve these green spaces and improve the capital’s air quality, the regional public authority Brussels Environment is working to create and manage green spaces and preserve natural areas. It is also encouraging Brussels residents to use more ‘gentle’ methods of transport, for a city that is greener and more picturesque. For more information visit: environnement.brussels
Regional cycle routes: These are routes that are recommended for medium and long-distance trips. As a rule of thumb, they use local roads that have lighter traffic, are slower in pace and as a result are less stressful than main roads. For more information visit: mobilite-mobiliteit.brussels/en
The Bikes in Brussels Fund: A Brussels resident who is passionate about cycling has recently set up the Bikes in Brussels Fund (managed by the King Baudouin Foundation). This fund aims to support projects for infrastructure or equipment that are started by associations, authorities or private and public partnerships. These projects are designed to encourage cyclists to get around the city, by responding to users’ expectations. The fund is aimed at small and medium- sized projects as much as those needing more substantial work and investment. For more information visit: www.kbs-frb.be/en/
Brussels and the Tour de France: The 2019 Grand Départ has once again put Brussels and Belgium in the saddle. The Great Loop has included Belgium a total of 47 times, but the story really began in the European capital back in 1947. The Tour has passed through Brussels 11 times. The Grand Départ first took place there during the Universal Exhibition in 1958. It was also in Brussels that Eddy Merckx wore his very first Yellow Jersey, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre in 1969, near his family grocery store.
Belgium is historically a cycling country. With its three classic bike races in Flanders, two in Ardennes and around 10 semi-classics, the flat country offers a choice of races for amateur cyclists. On an international level, Belgium is ranked second in the cycling nations, according to the International Cycling Union (source: UCI, 29 May 2019).
It is for all these reasons that Brussels feels great pride and fondness for the Tour de France, which has enthralled so many cycling fans by putting their champions in the spotlight.