Mopeds, bicycles and Molenbeek

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Bikelane indication symbol in Brussels

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Bike lane indication symbol in Brussels

I have had yet another run in with a moped in Molenbeek. This is far too often, for me, but sometimes the aggression is stunning.

Riding Chausee de Gand, away from the canal, on the right hand side where there is a designated bicycle lane (painted) that runs opposite to the one-way of the motorised traffic. The entire streets was full with parked cars, Sunday pedestrians and the entire road filled with cars moving slowly down the road.

As I went up the bicycle path, down came a moped, at speed, zipping past the slower moving cars. Here is Molenbeek, the moped users often think the bicycle paths are their’s – all the time – every time. There is a cycle path one the other side (his side), but this was where he wanted to be. Running directly at the oncoming cyclists.

If were to avoid him, I could only put my bike far too close to the parked cars, so I stood my ground, held the lane and he would have plenty of opportunity to slow, get back into the car lane long enough for me to pass.

He was having none of it. He drove straight at me, gesturing for me to move and give him right of way. At the last second, yes a game of chicken, he relented, went back into the car lane and I got past, shouting “Espace” (space).

Well, that had him turn the moped and chase me down the road.

I am used to this. I hear a moped coming and I get off my bike asap, and get ready for the confrontation. He drove his bike straight at me, jamming the front wheel between my legs. And then the abuse that I had to move out of the way, make space, I was .. well, the words in French are colourful.

And my reply was vocal. That it was a bicycle lane; I had priority; and he had to give space instead of trying to force me into the parked cars.

And the moped being throttled and the wheel snapped into me a little further, trying to teach me to back down. I stand pretty tall and it is not that easy to intimidate me. I am used to the disregard for cyclists and the aggression and abuse when I ride here.

Locals gathered and the abuse was at volume.

It all ended eventually, as elders intervened, said that they would not allow him to follow me down the road. I left and went home.

But this is a constant. I have had mopeds chase me and try and knock me off the bike because I complained they were being too fast and too aggressive in the bike lane (they ride on designated bike paths here w impunity). Mopeds drivers who grab your back pack from behind and try and throw you into the parked cars, or oncoming traffic. And have been shouldered as these moped drivers deliberately try and knock you out of the way as they try and use the cycle pathways in the opposite direction. Nobody can interfere with their speed nor their entitlement.

I am only irritated that I did not photograph his licence plate and report it to the police. But I thought that the moment I stepped to one side, he would drive him moped into any bike and cause damage. I am also quite sure the police would do nothing. I have spoken to them before and the first question is, “Any damage or injury?”.. And then they lose interest immediately.

Molenbeek is one of the communities with the lowest cycling population, despite a massive population base. Bikes are seen as trendy and professional and Yuppie. Riding a bike is a clear indication you are not a ‘local’.

The painted bike lanes are just areas where cars can be double-parked. Cyclists are obliged to ride counter to traffic and directly in thecae lanes, where they are met w another series of abuse for not being ion the bike lane.

I am angry and the adrenalin is pumping and I am bothered. … And tomorrow, I will take my bike and ride out there again.

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