Mobility and the constant obstacles

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Concrete barriers obstructing

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Bike paths and the constant threats

This was one of the shocks on the bike path when riding through the North Station area in Brussels. One of the massive concrete barriers had been moved across to obstruct bicycles. The area is a bit of a mess for cyclists, so it is seen in advance. But it is not pleasant.

Belgium has a reputation as pro-cycling country, but it would be a misunderstanding if the world thought bicycling here was loved and supported by all. Cycling development in any country requires advocacy and education. The opposition to bicycles is a constant. We are considered to be obstructions, slow moving vehicles that take space, limit the speed of cars and generally are nuisances.

The capital city, Belgium, is one of theses developed cycling areas, compared too cities like Ghent and Antwerp. But there is a steady growth in the capital. More and more cyclists can be seen on the streets, and the key advocacy agencies, Fietsersbond, GRACQ and ProVelo have been instrumental in its advance.

That said, cars remain the overwhelming presence. Intimidation is an everyday event. Drivers often see cyclists as unnecessary additions to congestion, and the primary reason their motorised vehicles are forced to go slower.

Of course, anybody who has been on a bike knows bicycles takes less space and, over any decent distance in the city, the bicycle has a far faster overall speed.

But I think we are seeing the last throes of resistances from the motorised world. The drivers who feel threatened by bicycles. Drivers who feel the promotion of bicycles will somehow destroy their own freedom.

It is an odd time to be on a bicycle. Just as we are about to become a prominent presence, we will have to endure the last efforts and frustrations of drivers who would prefer a continuation of gas guzzling, space filling vehicles.

At times like this, the small irritations like this concrete barrier seem so petty.

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