Hot on the heels of new cycling infrastructure recommendations introduced last year, Flanders is further updating its cycling policies with a safety-first approach and yearly spending commitment of 300 million euros, with the aim of hitting a new 30% target for journeys made by bike.
If Flanders is to reach its new goal by 2040, it will have to more than double the percentage of journeys made by bike in 2020. For that to happen, Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (VLD) said “words like murder strip or blind spot accident need to disappear from the dictionary.”
Cycling is increasingly popular but cyclists in Flanders are increasingly at risk. Cycling death in Flanders rose by 5 in 2022, to 73, and there were 13.6% more injuries from cycling accidents last year. According to figures from the Flemish Foundation for Traffic Engineering, only 14% of those did not involve a collision.
With more people on more powerful bikes, as well as the bikes themselves being larger models like scooters, cargo and electric cycles, cycling infrastructure needs to adapt. Guidelines issued last year specify for wider bicycle paths and increased waiting space at intersections.
Peeters has now overhauled what she called the “hopelessly outdated” previous plans, dating from 2016. In a headline measure, she is advocating the “child standard” for infrastructure, defined as enabling an eight-year-old to cycle independently to school or activities.
As well as a timetable to rectify 125 dangerous intersections a year to make them as safe as possible, her proposals would ban nearly all motorised traffic around schools, cultural, sports and youth facilities by 2040. Gaps in cycle routes and superhighways will also be tackled.
The introduction of the new strategy is not universally popular though. VRT is reporting that local representatives were not consulted about the plans despite being responsible for over 77% of Flemish cycle paths.
Meanwhile Flemish cycling groups want the plans to go even further. Wies Callens of the Cyclists Association praised the ambition of the plans but would like to see the timeframe accelerated for completion by 2030. “Children born today will be aged seventeen by the time a safe bike journey to school or to a leisure activity can be guaranteed,” he told VRT, emphasising that as well as cyclists and other road users, pedestrians would also benefit from the investment.