“Government needs to listen to cyclists,” says cyclists' union


The Fietsersbond latest report argues that, while government investment in cycling infrastructure is of a sufficient amount, it’s not being spent in the right places

Government increases budget from €60 to €100 million

Flanders is making huge efforts to get more people to cycle and to improve its cycling infrastructure, but it still has a long way to go, according to the Flemish cyclists’ union, Fietsersbond, which released its latest report last week.

Fietsersbond claims that the government is failing to listen to cyclists when it carries out infrastructure projects. “The government has invested heavily in new cycle paths and infrastructure, but it has failed to listen to cyclists to find out what they want,” the union said.

The latest report is based on a survey of 4,000 cyclists in Flanders. It states that they mainly want to see fewer cars on the road, potholes in cycle lanes repaired and dangerous intersections eliminated or altered.

The biggest complaint from cyclists is that roads in Flanders are dangerously congested. “A lot of cyclists tell us that there are too many cars, trucks and motorbikes on the roads and that they drive too fast and too close to cyclists,” said Bea Vanelslander of Fietsersbond. “They aren’t just worried about their safety, but also about their health because they are exposed to noise, fine particles and exhaust fumes.”

Flemish cyclists are also unhappy about the state of the roads. “Potholes and bumpy road surfaces make it impossible to cycle comfortably and reduce cyclists’ safety,” said Vanelslander.

The government of Flanders invests €100 million every year on cycle tracks and infrastructure. Fietsersbond does not argue that the amount is insufficient but that it isn’t being invested in the right way.

The report does single out three cycle routes in Flanders as exemplary – the Guldensporenpad from Kortrijk to Zwevegem, the Kanaalroute that runs along the canal from Vilvoorde to Brussels and out to Halle and the route that follows the high-speed train line between Brussels and Leuven. These routes are successful because they are separated from cars, with smooth tarmac surfaces and relatively few intersections.

Flanders’ transport minister, Hilde Crevits, said that she was not surprised by the critical report. “I am the first to admit that we still have a lot of work to do,” she said. “But the current Flemish government had invested more in cycle infrastructure than any previous administration. Following advice from the Fietsersbond, I increased the budget from €60 million to €100 million.”

Crevits argued that she had focused her efforts over the past few years on the creation of cycle paths and the construction of cycle superhighways along with bridges and tunnels dedicated to bicycles.

Photo courtesy Gazet van Antwerpen