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Brussels Mobility cycling campaign targets expats
A new campaign from Brussels Mobility aimed at getting more Brussels residents on to bicycles is specifically looking to turn expats into cyclists.
Brussels has the largest expat community in all of Europe, in part due to the presence of the European institutions. The region's estimated 220,000 expats make up 20% of the entire Brussels population.
The new cycling promotion has therefore taken on an international flair: eight different biking ambassadors head the campaign and hail from Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Botswana, New Zealand, Bosnia and Slovenia.
The ambassador of Botswana, Masekgoa Masire-Mwamba, bought a bicycle herself especially for the campaign.
"As an ambassador to Belgium, I have learnt to appreciate the rich cycling culture of this country," she said.
"I must admit that I did not yet own a bicycle here myself. I bought one especially for the campaign and will now explore the city by bike more often."
Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt said: "Through this campaign, we want to encourage all Brussels residents, including expats, to cycle more often.
"Our bicycle ambassadors show that you quickly catch the cycling bug. Brussels has long been labelled a car city, but the capital is changing. So many new and safe cycling facilities have been created in the capital of Europe.”
The campaign aims to entice Brussels residents and expats to use bicycles as their primary means of transport, citing 513km of marked and separated cycle lanes – twice as many as a decade ago.
There are also 36,606 public bicycle parking spaces, tripling the amount present in 2014. There are also 7,681 shared bikes circulating in the region.
And while the number of bicycle journeys in Brussels has tripled in a decade and the number of cyclists in Brussels is increasing by around 13% every year, authorities say much work remains to be done.
“Expats are the population group of choice to continue this trend, thanks to their huge growth potential within the Brussels cycling community,” said Bike for Brussels, a subsidiary organisation of Brussels Mobility.
Van den Brandt noted that “the first cyclists in Brussels were often expats”, citing a strong influence of Dutch cycling culture on Belgium.
“The cycling culture in the Netherlands is also a result of political choices,” she added.
“If you build bike paths, more cyclists will come. The city you design is the city you get. What can be done there can also be done in Brussels and Belgium.”
New summer cycle routes are also being offered by the regional public service as part of the campaign.
The routes are suitable for cyclists of all abilities and are designed to help visitors discover the city's parks, historic districts and emblematic monuments.
An ambassadors' route has also been set up, linking the favourite spots of the representatives taking part in the campaign.