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Belgium will build a bicycle highway

(Construction) – In the near future, residents of the Wallonia (French-speaking region in the south of Belgium) will be able to cycle directly to Brussels thanks to a bicycle highway that is about to be built.

 A unique 10 meter elevated path for bike lovers in the Bosland forest in Belgium. Photo: momentummag


According to Wallonia's Transport Minister Philippe Henry, this will be the first bicycle highway linking the south of the country with the capital Brussels.


This highway is in fact wide corridors for bicycles, pedestrians and other traffic, separated from the main traffic. These are safe, fast lanes, modeled after the "bicycle corridor" that has run through the Flemish region (Dutch-speaking region in the west of the country), or like the "Bicycle path" in Brussels.


To reduce the impact of automobile emissions on the environment, the Belgian federal government as well as regional governments encourage people to use bicycles. The regions have built dedicated bicycle routes with the aim of making two-wheelers a useful means of transport. The goal of this plan is to double the number of bicycle users by 2024, and fivefold by 2030. The "bicycle corridors" must form a reliable solution for users and ensure secure the long-term use of the bicycle highway. According to the Brussels Transport Directorate, there are about 2,000 cyclists every day.


Until now, in Wallonia, people rode bicycles mainly for recreational purposes. This is demonstrated by the establishment of the Ravel green network. This is a regional initiative to create a dedicated network of roads for pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and those with mobility impairments. These green routes were gradually linked together to form 10 regional routes and four international routes covering the entire Wallonia region and intended for bicycle travel. The more than 2,000 km long Ravel network allows visitors to cycle in peace and safety to explore big cities, countryside and unspoiled natural spaces.


According to transport adviser to Wallonia's Transport Minister, Joachim Romain, the regional government is in discussions with cities to connect points in the Ravel network, not to expand it. Five main bicycle routes have so far been identified to connect with the capital through connections with existing routes in the Flemish or Brussels regions, of which two are priority. The first line involves connecting the cities of Louvain-la-Neuve and Brussels with a length of 12 km in the Wallonia region. The route will also connect to Flemish regional infrastructure. The other road will link the Flamish region with the Ottignies of Louvain-la-Neuve, via La Hulpe and Rixensart, for 12 km.


Both projects are part of the European recovery plan submitted by Wallonia. The European Commission (EC) is expected to fund the projects €13.74 million ($16.06 million), a small part of the total €417 million budget allocated for cycling. In addition to the EC funding, the government of Wallonia has allocated no less than 25 million euros for bicycle corridors, within the framework of the Infrastructure plan announced in July 2020 (i.e. 10 % of total budget for bicycle infrastructure).

With these corridors, cyclists will be able to have complete peace of mind. Because safety is one of the main obstacles to using a bicycle, it is not the only one. "We often hear that cycling in Wallonia is not fun because the roads are steep. But now, with electric bicycles, this argument is no longer valid," said Luc Goffinet, representative of the Wallonian Bicycle Association. (GRACQ) comments.


The government of Wallonia is committed to implementing a comprehensive plan called "Wallonian Cycle Road 2030" by mid-2021, which will be responsible for coordinating all initiatives. Although there is still a wait, Wallonia wants to promote the value of the "two-wheeler". The evidence is that the regional government appointed a position in charge of the bicycle network in the Wallonia Regional Directorate of Transportation.



Currently, a "Bicycle Corridor" is being considered to connect the two cities of Louvain-la-neuve and Namur based on the existing road. Meanwhile, the city of Liège, which suffered heavily from the historic flood in mid-July, is planning 15 bicycle corridors connecting the periphery to the city center. Another project involves a bicycle path along the river Vesdre (province of Liège) to facilitate the use of bicycles around the town of Verviers.