Flanders’ Copenhagen Plan had a goal of deploying 1,000 kilometers of additional bicycle paths but that number has been surpassed. The Flemish government had originally set aside 150 million euros for this ambitious endeavor. However, with 2,017 kilometers of projects submitted the local authorities and the provinces exceeded all expectations. Flemish Minister of Internal Administration, Bart Somers, decided to further increase the budget by 7 million euros. Together with the co-financing by provinces and cities and municipalities, this amounts to 412 million in new bicycle paths and bicycle highways.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, the Flemish government decided to improve the cycling infrastructure with the Copenhagen Plan. 150 million euros in co-financing were set aside to realize the ambitious goal of 1,000 kilometers of new bike paths. In order to achieve this, the cities and municipalities and the provinces joined forces. “With Copenhagen as an inspiration, this puts Flanders further on the map as a true cycling region,” said Somers. A survey published by Fietsberaad Vlaanderen showed that 29% of Flemish people cycle daily, while 27% did so weekly.
The ambitions of the Copenhagen Plan have not only been met, but we have even revised them upwards.Bart Somers, Minister of Internal Administration
Since then, every local government has been given the opportunity to submit bicycle infrastructure projects. A principle of drawing rights is used in which Flanders matches one euro for every two euros invested locally. Ambitious local governments are additionally rewarded with a one-to-one ratio as soon as they exceed their drawing rights. This “Flemish euro for every local euro” is financed from the resources of local governments that have not fully taken up their drawing rights. The “first come first serve principle” applies.
The projects submitted by the local governments and the provinces account for no less than 2,017 kilometers of new bicycle paths and bicycle highways. Cities, municipalities, and provinces have exceeded all expectations. To partly meet the increased demand for budget, Flemish minister Somers is allocating 7 million euros in additional funds.
Compared to just a few years ago, bicycle use has increased enough in Flanders for the authorities to notice measures need to be taken to accommodate the new flow. According to Belga news, the number of journeys taken by bicycle has increased from 12.8% in 2013 to 14.2% in 2020, while commuting by bicycle has raised from 12.5% to 16.9% over the same period.
“More room for the bicycle is, therefore, a necessity, and the new guidelines respond to this,” Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters said, justifying the new recommendations for wider bicycle paths, which propose 2 meters for the one-way paths and 3 meters for the two-way paths. The provided waiting space at intersections will also be increased.
Besides the higher number of bicycles on the streets, people have been using increasingly varied types of bikes and other soft mobility options. Electric bicycles, cargo bicycles, scooters and e-scooters, as well as other vehicles that vary in size and speed support the need for an improved infrastructure.
This summer, the city of Mechelen was awarded the title of Cycling City 2022 by the Flemish Minister Lydia Peeters and the Flemish Foundation for Traffic Engineering (Vlaamse Stichting Verkeerskunde, VSV) for its commitment to safe cycling infrastructure.
A total of nine Flemish cities and municipalities were nominated by the general public as contenders for the title earlier this year. The nine nominees were screened by a specialized consultancy. Experts made an in-depth analysis of the cycling infrastructure and cycling policy in the cities and municipalities involved. The results were decisive for the designation of the winners, who receive a subsidy of 50,000 euros from the Flemish government, which they can invest in bicycle facilities.