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Highway code may change for cargo bikes

09:45 17/04/2024

Cargo bikes, some of which can transport up to four children as well as pets and shopping, are on the rise in Brussels - but some models are only legally permitted to carry one child.

“Electric cargo bikes that can go up to 45 km/h are considered to be mopeds or speed pedelecs [with a strength of more than 250 watts],” said Benoît Godart, spokesperson for Belgium’s road safety institute Vias.

He explained that the highway code currently stipulates that a maximum of one passenger can be carried on this type of vehicle.

However, he said that no one could say that transporting two children would be really more dangerous than one. In principle, the highway code should evolve to adapt to these new means of transport, he added.

All cargo bikes – where the passengers sit at the front of the bike with two or three wheels, or long tails (where occupants sit in a row at the back) have electrical assistance, important to manage the weight as the bicycles are built to take children up to 10 years old.

There are two main types – up to 25 km/hour (sometimes called "eco" mode) and up to 45 km/hour (turbo mode) and it is the latter that causes problems.

A decision will be needed, given that these machines are becoming more common in the capital. In Ixelles, Lucien bicycle shop told the RTBF that a quarter of their sales are for cargo bikes.

In addition, initiatives continue to encourage Brussels residents to get on their cargo bikes. The Cairgo bike project for example allows individuals to test these machines for one or two weeks, with the support of Brussels and Wallonia’s cycling organisation Pro Vélo.

Brussels regional agency will also be installing more cargo bike parking spaces. The car and now bike rental organisation Cambio will continue to expand its range of services for these models, and small businesses that buy cargo bikes this year will again receive bonuses from Brussels regional service Brussels Economy and Employment.

Photo: Luc Van Heerentals/Belga

Written by Liz Newmark