Belgium goes for national register against bicycle theft

In January, there will be a central bicycle register in Belgium to fight bicycle theft. Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) confirmed this in Le Soir newspaper, among others. It is one of the showpieces of the ‘Be Cyclist’ program, which aims to promote the use of bicycles through a series of 52 measures.

The mybike system in Brussels, which combats bicycle theft by identifying bikes in a register, will be extended to the whole country in January. For now, bicycles can be voluntarily registered and, in return, receive a sticker with a QR code to identify them.

Central bicycle register

In March, the Consultative Committee had already approved the creation of a central bicycle register, mybike, in the fight against bicycle theft. On that register, owners can store details of their bikes and file reports, as well as check whether a second-hand bicycle was reported stolen.

Almost 44 000 bikes are registered in the Brussels mybike, and the minister, who welcomes the successful cooperation between the regions in the Consultative Committee, hopes to increase registrations by expanding the system to the whole country.

Although there will be only one database at the national level, each region will have its own site and organize its own communication on the subject.

Indication in case of a stolen bike

Specifically, bike owners can apply for a free sticker that will be applied to the bike’s frame and cannot be removed. That sticker will contain a unique QR code. In the register, the bicycle owner can log in securely. It can store all the details of the bicycle and report theft.

When buying a used bicycle, the potential buyer can scan the code on the bike and check whether it has been reported stolen by the owner. A system will also be developed to integrate current Brussels users into the new national system seamlessly.

70 thefts per day

Bicycle theft is mainly a metropolitan phenomenon. In Brussels, the chance of a bike being stolen is four times higher than the national average. In Antwerp and Leuven, too, the frequency is twice the average. Interestingly, the frequency is slightly below the national average in Ghent and Bruges.

More and more insurers are also introducing additional conditions for their bicycle insurance. For example, those living in Antwerp or Brussels are sometimes no longer insured if their bike is parked on the street at night.

Figures from 2020 indicate as many as 70 thefts per day in Belgium, or 24 592 bikes yearly. According to a study commissioned by Minister Gilkinet, the Vias Institute estimates that only 48% of bicycle theft victims report it to the police.

No driving license for cyclists

In the context of yesterday’s Car Free Sunday and an article in La Dernière Heure newspaper about the sometimes reckless driving behavior of some cyclists – read: deliberately ignoring red lights – Gilkinet also let it be known that he is not in favor of a driving license for cyclists.

“Imposing a license on them would be nonsense, a measure I will never accept. Statistics show that cyclists are rarely responsible for accidents but are far more likely to be victims of them caused by motorized users. And that cyclists are generally more careful because they are more aware of the risks we impose on a more vulnerable user by speeding, getting distracted, or not respecting safety distances. That said, cyclists, like pedestrians, are not exempt from the rules of the Highway Code.”

Vias also opposes it, pointing out that it is not currently on any political agenda. It also points out that no such license exists in any European country.


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