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11,000 Brussels residents on waiting list for bicycle boxes

09:02 14/09/2023

The number of bike boxes in Brussels is growing rapidly but cannot keep up with demand, according to figures from the capital’s mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen).

Cycling has been on the rise in popularity, Bruzz reports, but secure parking facilities for bicycles has struggled to keep pace.

“In Brussels, many people would like to cycle, but they don't do it because they don't have a safe place to park their bike or because they are afraid their bike will be stolen,” Van den Brandt said.

Figures from 2020 showed that there are as many as 70 bicycle thefts a day in Belgium, which amounts to some 24,500 bikes over the whole year.

But the data from Van den Brandt - requested by Brussels MP Jonathan de Patoul (DéFI) - show some 11,000 people are currently on the waiting list for a bike box near their home or workplace.

The longest waits can be found in Schaerbeek and Ixelles where more than 1,700 and 1,500 people respectively are on the list.

The differences in figures between municipalities can be explained in several ways, according to Van den Brandt.

“You have the number of inhabitants, of course, but also, for example, the type of buildings that differ from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, the quality of road infrastructure for cyclists, the priorities of local authorities in terms of bicycle parking, the cycling culture in the municipality and the people who live there,” she said.

The minister added that the figures need to be put in perspective.

“The waiting list also includes users who have since moved away or are no longer looking for a parking solution,” Van den Brandt said.

“Moreover, it also happens that users refuse an offered spot because they want to wait for a bike box closer to home. Since the Cycloparking platform was launched, the acceptance rate of subscriptions to the boxes has been around 42% on average.”

New bike boxes are being added in Brussels nevertheless. By the end of December 2022, the Brussels region already had 858 bike boxes, 285 more than the previous year.

“There are indeed many bike boxes being added, but not enough,” Thomas Deweer of the Cyclists' Union said.

“Often it is simply a question of finding space, because in Brussels it is the case that a municipality is only subsidised by the region if a new bike box comes on the site of a former car park.

"However, that is not always obvious to explain to residents and some parking spaces are also unsuitable for a bike box because it can obstruct visibility."

In addition to increasing the number of bicycle boxes on public roads, Cycloparking, the organisation that manages bicycle parking at regional level, is aiming to further develop off-street bicycle parking. This could be done, for example, by reconfiguring garages into bicycle sheds.

Additionally, two operators will start offering secure bike racks from 2024 after a pilot project that will include secure racks for about 500 bikes at 50 locations in Brussels.

“In addition to a growing number of cyclists, we also see an important trend towards new types of bicycles such as cargo bikes, electric bikes and speed pedelecs,” Deweer said.

“These new but more expensive variants attract people who would otherwise never use a bike. However, in order not to discourage them, a greater supply of safe cycling infrastructure is crucial.

"We therefore call on everyone involved - from the municipalities to and Stib - to make this a priority.”

Written by Helen Lyons