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Cycling is sexy

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Brussels - by Roel Hoenders

About seventy (almost) naked people cycled around Brussels last Saturday the 30th of June. Objective of this action was underlining the weak nature of bikers in daily traffic, but also emphasizing the increasing need (and according madness) of oil in the world of today.

The tour started at Place de la Monnaie – Muntplein, from where the group left for a tour of about two hours towards the Jubelpark – Parc du Cinquantenaire.

bikebrussel.jpgEven though some of the participants were completely naked, most of them were still wearing a small piece of cloth. Nudity was chosen just to attract some more attention to the parade; it had nothing to do with exhibitionism or something similar. Nevertheless, according to the organisers a bike is a symbol of freedom and a revolutionary means of transportation in a city. It’s soft and efficient, ecological and also fun! Moreover, it does not use fossil fuel, so it doesn’t contribute to the destruction of the planet! This was the message of the parade and this happens to coincide largely with nudity.

The fact that Brussels is not very biker friendly was also discussed in the Brussels city council only recently. The subject was brought up in relation to the Brussels Cyclocity project. For the people living or visiting Brussels this is a pretty visible initiative. Many might know it, but how many people have actually used one of these rental bikes?

Since September 2006 the green bikes can be picked-up and placed back at different locations in Brussels. However, according to the local political opposition (MR) the project is not a big success as only about 100 bikes per day are rented. Moreover, the contract the city of Brussels signed stipulates that the city has to pay a subsidy of € 7,33 per rented bike.

The problem is that the project as it is now mostly attracts tourists. This is due to the location of the pick-up places which are useful for tourists, but not for locals. One of the main objectives of the project was to have locals signing up to monthly contracts for using the bikes almost daily and in that way reducing congestion caused by commuters. This does, however, not seem to work while a similar project in Barcelona attracted 20.000 members in the first two months.

Besides the location of the pick-up points, another way to attract more locals would be making the first half hour of use free of charge. Especially locals would be more attracted to use the bikes if such free use is offered. Success stories in cities as Vienna and Lyon, were the first half hour is indeed for free, proved that 98% of the total rides consists of bikes being returned within this free half hour.

Finally, the project should be further extended to other communities in the Brussels Region and should not be restricted to the city center of Brussels. By doing so locals could be actually indulged to leave the car and take one of the (free) bikes.

According to the city council itself, it is still too early to make a judgement about the project as the project is not even ongoing for more than a year. It would be a pity though if success lacks behind as this project could contribute to a general improvement of life in Brussels. The project could further contribute to increasing safety and quality of the roads in Brussels for bikers. But even non-bikers could benefit as the project could help improving bad air quality and congestion in the Belgian capital. Finally, it would obviously also help to get more locals on the bike if it would stop raining at last!

Roel Hoenders