Flanders will put cycling in the spotlight during the Belgian presidency of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2024. “The European presidency offers an ideal opportunity to interpret our cycling ambitions internationally and to convince colleagues to work towards a strong cycling policy,” says Flemish Mobility minister Lydia Peeters (Open VLD).
“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.”
This is why the minister wants to prioritise cycling on the European agenda during the Belgian presidency of the EU. “The Flemish cycling policy and our historically high investments in cycling are increasingly being praised internationally, as was demonstrated at the Velo-city international cycling congress in Leipzig,” says Peeters, an event of which the 2024 edition will be held in Ghent when Belgium still has the EU presidency.
“We are well placed to raise awareness of the importance of cycling in the mobility mix”
“We are well placed to raise awareness of the importance of cycling in the mobility mix. The European presidency offers an ideal opportunity to interpret our cycling ambitions internationally and convince our colleagues to work for a strong cycling policy.”
In the current legislative period, 2019-2024, Flanders has already invested 1.4 billion euros in comfortable and safe cycling infrastructure. In 2023 alone, this includes 446 bicycle lanes on and along regional roads. The Flemish government also supports provinces and municipalities in implementing their cycling ambitions.
Ministerial conference on cycling
To exchange good practices with other countries, Flanders is organising a European ministerial conference on cycling in Hasselt on 30 January, to which all European mobility ministers will be invited.
During the event, Peeters will present her cycling ambitions to her European colleagues and exchange ideas with other countries and European institutions on how to make an even stronger European commitment to the potential of cycling as a fully-fledged mode of transport. The new European Cycling Declaration, expected in the autumn, will undoubtedly be on the agenda.
“Cycling is a lever to accelerate the transformation of our economy”
“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.”
On World Cycling Day 2022, Gilkine and his counterparts from Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Ireland signed a European Cycling Declaration. They called on 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.
Since the pandemic, cycling has become more popular than ever. In 2021, Europe had 9.2 per cent more cyclists than before the pandemic. Around 22 million bicycles were sold in the European Union in 2020. This figure is expected to reach 30 million by 2030.