Five bike highways to get Walloon commuters into the saddle
The Brussels and Walloon Ministers of Mobility put their heads together to get Walloon commuters into the saddle with five new bicycle highways to the Belgian capital. Under consideration are the trajectories Waterloo-Brussels along the railway line 124, and other routes along the Chaussees de la Hulpe and Waterloo, the existing E411 highway, and the canal to Tubize.
Both ministers, Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) and Philippe Henry (Ecolo), get along quite well as they bothe belong to a green party. To cut back car use, the two ecologists want to inspire commuters in a range of 30 km around Brussels. A typical range for someone using a fast speed pedelec for commuting, for instance.
Spoil them with infrastructure
“It’s not for everybody, but one can convince cyclists by creating long pleasant routes like in Scandinavia. You have to spoil them when it comes to infrastructure,” Elke Van den Brandt says. There is some work to do to get the Walloons into the saddle, as the percentage that uses the bicycle to go to work is only 1%, compared to 5% in Brussels.
Studies show that it isn’t the elevation of the landscape or the weather that are the major drawbacks for them to mount, but rather safety issues and lack of specific infrastructure.
To make up arrears
Philippe Henry admits Wallonia has to make up arrears in bicycle infrastructure compared to other regions or countries. “We are going to make a historic investment in Wallonia by quadrupling the budget for it,” the minister says.
But without the cooperation of Flanders, the shiny new bicycle highways might end up like E411 highway’s carpool lane project that won’t reach Brussels for some time, as became apparent last month. Philippe Henry is waiting on infrastructure agency Sofico’s evaluation that won’t be ready before April next year. Plus, Flander’s Open Vld party continues to oppose the project.
Stopping at the border
A dedicated carpool lane was put up on the E411 highway to connect Wavre and Brussels, but it stops at the regional border, in Overijse, where, incidentally, congestion begins. In the hope of putting pressure on his Flemish colleague, Ben Weyts (N-VA), at that time, then Minister for Mobility, Carlo Di Antonio (cdH), launched the project without Flanders’ green light just before the elections.
“But now with the two of us, we will stand stronger,” smiles Philippe Henry, referring to the ‘green tandem’ with his Brussels’ colleague. The carpool project, the arrears in Wallonia in the development of the Brussels regional train network (RER), and the bicycle highways will be put on the table at the reunions with the federal and regional ministries that are to be held ‘soon’.
Bicycle ring around Charleroi
Meanwhile, in other cities in Wallonia, like Charleroi, they have discovered the bicycle too. The Alderman for Mobility, Xavier Desgain (Ecolo), makes out a case of a 2,6 million-euros investment to create a kind of ‘bicycle ring’ around the city and improving 60 bicycle routes into the city like bicycle spokes in the period 2019-2021.