Pedal power will be a major focus of Belgium’s upcoming European Union presidency, according to reports by news agency Belga.
Belgium will take on the presidency of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2024. Promoting the impact that two-wheeled mobility can have on local economies, one of Belgium’s first events under the EU presidential banner will be to host a European cycling conference in Hasselt on 30 January, to which all European mobility ministers will be invited.
1. Economic lever
“A European cycling policy makes particular sense,” says Belgian deputy prime minister and Mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo). “Cycling is a lever to accelerate the transformation of our economy. It is an asset for relocating jobs, sustainable tourism and local trade. Cycling makes our cities freer and reduces our CO2 emissions.”
Taking the lead on the event will be Flemish Mobility minister Lydia Peeters (Open VLD party).
The European presidency offers an ideal opportunity to interpret our cycling ambitions internationally and to convince colleagues to work towards a strong cycling policy.Lydia Peeters, Flemish Mobility minister
2. Flanders is a model
Flanders has long been a model for prioritising cycling policy and bolstering provinces and municipalities in their cycling ambitions. During the present legislative period, 2019-2024, Flanders has invested 1.4 billion euros in safe and convenient cycling infrastructure, including the development of nearly 450 bike lanes this year alone.
“Our historically high investments in cycling are increasingly being praised internationally, as was demonstrated at the Velo-city international cycling congress in Leipzig,” said Peeters. The 2024 edition of Velo-city will be held in Ghent when Belgium still has the EU presidency.
The public’s appetite for cycling has been proven in recent years. Travel Tomorrow has previously reported on growth in the sector, including e-bikes, during and since the pandemic. Bike sales are expected to reach around 30 million by 2030.
Marking this boom on World Cycling Day last year, Gilkine alongside representatives from Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Ireland signed a European Cycling Declaration, appealing to the EU to “adopt a real cycling policy” and to make 2024 the “European Year of Cycling”, a call they repeated at the beginning of June 2023.
As a launchpad, Peeters will use January’s conference to share Flemish achievements with her European counterparts. The event will be a forum for ideation and exchange with other nations and European institutions, exploring how the EU can further commit to cycling as a legitimate part of the mobility menu.
“The number of cyclists continues to grow, we are investing unprecedented amounts in cycling infrastructure, the bicycle is getting more and more space in the street scene and we are an international pioneer in constructing our cycling roads and motorways,” says Peeters. “We want to share our experience with others and show what can be achieved by making cycling a real political priority.”