Cycling in Brussels is becoming increasingly popular. So reports the Brussels public service Brussels Mobility. Last week, for instance, the ten millionth bike or e-scooter movement was counted past one of the region’s 18 counting poles, half a million more than last year or double the number four years ago.
The relative figures also confirm this trend: the number of cyclists on an annual basis in the Brussels-Capital Region increased by 7% this year.
“That more bicycle or e-scooter movements are counted is logical because we have also installed more counting poles,” Inge Paemen, spokeswoman for Brussels Mobility told Brussels news medium Bruzz. Still, these absolute figures should be taken with a grain of salt, she argues.
The open data collected by the Brussels counting poles spread throughout the Brussels region paint too optimistic a picture of the increase in Brussels cyclists. “Ten million cyclists, that’s great news. But if we place more counting poles, more cyclists will also be counted.”
Cyclists who pass, for example, by the same bollard several times a day weigh more than those who do not or only once pass the bollard.
Canal zone busiest
But whichever way you look at it, and however popular the shared e-scooter may be among young users, without the construction of new, wide cycle paths – the one along the canal in downtown Brussels has been there for some time; the one around the ring road and in the Rue de la Loi/Wetsstraat are new – Brussels Mobility would never be able to present such figures.
The busiest cycling axis in Brussels Region is along the canal in Molenbeek, with more than 1 473 212 registrations on the counter (counting today). The cycle path on the Little Ring also proved popular. The measuring point on Avenue des Arts/Kunstlaan already saw more than 1 271 871 cyclists or e-steppers pass through.
Rue de la Loi/Wetsstraat remains a busy bicycle axis, with over 916 697 cyclists and e-scooters registered. With an average of 85 000 registrations per month in 2022, the counter will smoothly cross the million mark in 2023, too. The bicycle is also popular for commuting to Brussels; that is evident from the number of bicycle movements along the Brussels-Vilvoorde and Brussels-Charleroi canals, north and south of the city, respectively. On the Chaussée de Vilvorde/Vilvoordse Steenweg, 845 396 registrations have been counted, and on the Quai de Veeweyde/Veeweyde Kaai, 489 204.
10% of journeys
However, the relative figures show that the number of cyclists in Brussels is still rising. The number of cyclists in the Brussels Capital Region is also up 7% this year. This is quite a bit less than last year, which records a rise of 40%, a steep rise that may have come because of a post-coronavirus effect, a measure such as Zone 30, and simply the fact that new safe cycling paths – a much-needed catch-up – have since been constructed, lowering the threshold fear of getting on a bike.
Another striking figure: almost 10% of journeys in Brussels are made by bike today compared to 1% in the early 2000s.
Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) is already pleased with the increased number of Brussels residents on bikes. “Road safety and decent cycle paths are essential to ensure a growing number of cycling movements. You can certainly link the spectacular increase in cyclists in four years to the increased infrastructure,” the minister points out. “A success story, but the work is not yet done. We will continue to invest in safe bike lanes.”
Happy bicycle repairers
With the cyclist boom, Brussels’ bicycle repairers are also rubbing their hands because more cyclists mean more work for them. The non-profit association Cycle, for example, does some 16 000 repairs a year, or a good 40 a day, and often must refuse customers because they are complete.
The growing number of bicycle dealers also indicates that cycling is rising in Brussels. The site visit-brussels gives an overview in different languages of the range of bike shops in Brussels.