Interesting and thoroughly enjoyable trip to Belgium. Fabulous cycle infrastructure, very few helmets used, generally friendly and courteous road users and also, interestingly, cyclists who generally obeyed traffic laws.
The four day trip to Leuven courtesy of the province of Vlaams Brabant (Flemish Bramant) showed me how a city could accomodate cyclists, walkers and drivers safely through cityplanning and design.
Leuven is a small city, with a population of around 100,000 and focussed very much around its University, one of Europe’s most renowned. So, not much in common with London perhaps but surely an attitude towards city planning that could be applied in London. It’s a very international city and well worth a visit.
The first thing you notice are the two way cyclepaths segregated from the traffic, no mixing with HGVs here. Immediately we were also struck by how few cyclists wore helmets, they were very rare indeed inside the city. It was safe enough without them.
The second thing that hits you is the sheer number of bikes: they are everywhere. Everyone cycles, young or old. There is cycle parking on many roads equivalent to car parking and in huge underground parks and chained (usually locked anyway everywhere)
There’s definitely a courtesy and consideration among drivers, cyclists and pedestrians that is not always seen in London. Many of the city centre streets are pedestrianised but cyclists, pedestrians and the occasional delivery driver (within certain hours) share the paved areas easily. In London cyclists are often kept away from pedestrian paved areas and some ride selfishly it’s true, but how much possibility for shared use of pavements is often missed!
It’s not an easy thing to create a symbiosis of road users like this but the urban infrastructure and road signage helps. Even walking around, we would find that cars would tend to stop for us to cross on quieter roads. Little things like considering the needs of walkers and cyclists in all areas makes a huge difference.
Further out in the city there is a network of cycle routes that link up across the region (numbered and mapped) and usually segregated from traffic. There are more helmets to be seen but more so because cyclists are hitting higher speeds. Still, many junctions have special crossing lights just for cyclists.
In the city, the main bikes used are town bikes with built in locks and plastic chain guards.
And of course the postman is on a bike!
More photos, click to enlarge!