One week after the “Mobility week”, in the midst of the organization of the World cycling championships here, it is no doubt no coincidence. And then after all, the promotion of soft mobility is indeed part of the Vivaldi government agreement, which will soon blow its first candle. In addition, it must be admitted that the health crisis has also enabled many Belgians, wary of public transport in particular, to discover or rediscover this mode of travel. Their number would thus have increased by 64% between 2019 and 2020.
This Friday, the Council of Ministers approved an ambitious “federal action plan for the promotion of cycling“2021-2024: 52 measures to facilitate the choice of the bicycle. A plan called” BE CYCLIST “, based on a series of concrete actions in favor of two-wheelers put forward by the various ministers and secretaries of state, under the led by their colleague from Mobility, Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo), who immediately reacted by means of a press release: “If more and more people are cycling, it is first of all good for our economy, because the cost of traffic jams is very high: 2.3 billion euros per year according to the Planning Bureau. is also positive for health and mental well-being.And of course cycling has a positive impact on our climate, as an alternative to means of transport using fossil fuels, it helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to transport “.
52 measures to start. The plan is based on three axes: facilitating its convenient access, making the road safer and making the bike option obvious and normal. The government wishes, among other things, to study the possibilities of generalizing the bicycle allowance and thus optimizing it for home-work journeys, which is currently an optional and voluntary choice of the employer.
Bike leasing measures are also being studied within the public service. As for civil servants, we would also imagine a better integration of the bicycle in the buildings managed by the Federal Buildings Agency. Care would also be taken to stimulate and facilitate the use of bicycles for the police, in public services for business trips. Incentives also to promote more sustainable parcel delivery services by bicycle in city centers.
Regarding the civil service, Minister Petra De Sutter (Groen) announces the objective of doubling by 2024 the proportion of federal civil servants who come to work by bicycle, which is currently one in ten. To do this, an analysis of the existing infrastructures around the buildings of the federal public authorities is planned, and various solutions envisaged: encouraging the purchase of equipment, rental or leasing, bicycle allowance to be combined, etc.
Also programmed infrastructure investments to install “cycloroutes“, for example along the rail axes, and we are working on a better multimodality and train-bike combination by the SNCB.
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In terms of security – and to fight against theft – the government is studying the idea of setting up a central bicycle register that would make it possible to quickly identify whether a sold bicycle has been stolen. A careful rereading of the Highway Code from the point of view of two wheels is also planned, the new code being expected for years.
The plan should be evaluated every September, which will then allow new measures to be added if necessary.
It should be noted that the federal plan will thus be added to the measures already taken in number also at the level of the Regions. So at the Walloon level, a global “regional bicycle plan called” the Wallonia cyclable plan, which notably includes a series of bonuses for the purchase of electric or non-electric bicycles and incentives for “bike-friendly” employers.
Positive reaction from GRACQ
The cycling plan, presented on Friday by the federal government, “includes most of the measures expected by the cycling associations at federal level”, according to the Daily Cyclists Research and Action Group (GRACQ).
“Bicycle plans in Belgium were until now the prerogative of the regions. The federal government is now proposing a national ‘BeCyclist’ plan which activates its levers (taxation, rail, Highway Code) to boost the efforts of the regions . In an area like the fight against bicycle theft, this brings the real binder that was lacking until now “, according to the cycling association.
The GRACQ underlines among the strong points of this plan an “optimization” of the home / work bicycle allowance, which does not yet cover all employees in Belgium. It is also a question of making bicycle leasing accessible to public sector employees. “For the moment, in fact, only workers in the private sector (7%) can benefit from it, if their employer offers it of course.”
The fight against bike bike theft is “one of the major points of this plan”, with the desire to develop a national bicycle register and a mobilization of the Interior and Justice to tackle the problem of impunity.
“The federal state will also sweep in front of its door, by better integrating the bicycle in federal buildings, including the Royal Theater of the Mint and at BOZAR, or by also stimulating the professional trips by bicycle of its officials.”
“We can of course blame it for its ‘catalog of intentions’ side, the lack of detail of the measures, the lack of budget, deadlines or quantified objectives (modal shares in 2030 for example), but it constitutes a very good first step in the right direction “, assures the GRACQ.