Traffic jams drive Antwerp citizens to super fast e-bikes
Statistics are rarely so revealing: the number of speed pedelecs in Belgium has risen in the past six months from 6.760 to 9.521. Almost half of all new super fast e-bikes, up to 45 km per hour, were purchased in the province of Antwerp. The reason is clear: traffic jams make Antwerp citizens opt for an e-bike.
Alternative to the car
Member of Parliament, Jef Van den Bergh (CD&V), requested the figures from the Ministry of Mobility. “In June 2017 there were 3.613 speed pedelecs, today that number has almost tripled”, he says. “In Wallonia there are only 281, in Brussels 144. With 4.032 registrations, Antwerp is far ahead, followed by East Flanders (2.133) and Flemish Brabant (1.260).”
For Van den Bergh there is only one simple explanation for the success of the superfast e-bike in the province of Antwerp: “For commuters it has become an alternative to the car. Especially now that since the beginning of this year also for speed pedelecs a bicycle remuneration of 0,23 cent per kilometre applies.”
Federal and Flemish civil servants (with the exception of teachers), police officers and military personnel cannot receive a bicycle allowance yet. Van den Bergh argues in favour of changing this as soon as possible.
“It is in the social dialogue for the civil servants, but progress is slow”, he says. “It is precisely the public authorities that should set a sustainable example here. NMBS has never talked about bicycle remuneration. That’s absurd, isn’t it?”
According to Van den Bergh, companies are increasingly leasing speed pedelecs for their employees via leasing companies, as if they were cars.
Leased like a car
Marc Groven, co-owner of iBike, a chain of eight bicycle shops in Antwerp, can only agree. “Take a customer like Atlas Copco, 800 employees already have a company bike there. At BASF 1.400 people already commute with a leased bike. They work through leasing companies, as they do for cars. It can also be interesting for small businesses to buy the speed pedelecs themselves. They can deduct 120% of this investment.”
An e-bike is expensive, from 4.500 to 10.000 euro. Groven states that with the bike remuneration and the savings in the car costs you earn it back in two years. There are still a few advantages. “With a speed pedelec you know almost to the minute when you are going to arrive. Moreover, you move a lot more and have much less stress.”
Antwerp scores better than Holland
The success of the speed pedelecs, a contraction of the English words PEDal ELECtrical Cycle, also leads to a few negative points. Sometimes it causes tensions with the slower cyclists on the crowded bicycle tracks, so there is a need for wider cycle motorways. “Now it is three metres wide, for the two directions, that will not be sufficient”, says Van den Bergh. “The province is going to make the new bicycle tracks four metres wide.”
Plus: due to the success, delivery times increase, up to six weeks. “Nowhere else does the market peak like here”, says Groven. “In Antwerp alone, as many speed pedelecs are sold as in the Netherlands. That’s quite impressive.”