Wallonia: five cycling highways to join Brussels and Flanders
With cycling growing in popularity, pushed by the revolution of electric bikes, the Walloon government is preparing five major bicycle highways. The aim is to join those already existing in Flanders and Brussels to give quick and safe access to the capital.
Wallonia wishes to push for cycling as a mode of transport and increase its use in the region by two by 2024 and by five by 2030.
It won’t surprise anyone: cycling is far more popular in the north of Belgium than in the south. Of course, many factors play a role in that popularity, culture, and infrastructure are the major ones, but geography also plays a role.
However, since the pandemic, cycling has grown in popularity all over Belgium, helped by the rise of the electric bike. With this assistance, the ups and downs of the Walloon terrain are no longer an issue. Furthermore, bicycles are, slowly but steadily, shifting from a leisure activity to a means of transport.
With its desire to increase the use of bikes twofold in three years and fivefold in 2030, Wallonia has to act on its infrastructure. Today, many roads still aren’t equipped with cycling paths, and those already existing are often poor. But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the leg-powered two-wheeler, as Europe has allocated a huge budget to cycling.
While the Walloon government has still to come up with its ‘Wallonie cyclable 2030’ plan, which was supposed to arrive mid-2021, plans are being drawn to create cycling highways. One step above the simple cycling path, these ‘corridors’ are on their own dedicated and separate piece of tarmac, making them safer and cutting time off the journey due to their specific routes.
Wallonia is currently planning five highways, connecting to the ones already existing in Flanders and Wallonia. Out of them, two have priority. Both are 12-km-long tracks. One runs alongside the E411 highway between the university city Louvain-la-Neuve and Brussels, while the other follows the N275 from Ottignies to Flanders, through La Hulpe, and Rixensart.
According to the latest version of the Infrastructure Plan, published in July 2020, Wallonia should allocate 25 million euros to construct those specific cycling paths.
Europe should bring an additional €13,74 million to that envelope as part of the 417 million bicycle budget. But, according to Walloon politicians, these five bicycle highways are only the start. Current paths are meant to be upgraded, and other provinces, such as Liège, plan their own bicycle corridor expansion.