Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brussels (Sprouts) Bike Lanes

Brussels is the worst--when it comes to traffic congestion. That's not my opinion, that's the ranking from Tom Tom, the GPS manufacturer. The last time Tom Tom checked,  in June of 2011, Brussels topped the list of European cities with the worst traffic congestion. Though there are indications that's changing.
You might guess all that traffic congestion would translate into nightmare conditions for cyclists. You'd be right--and wrong. Listen to what Chloe Mispelon and Julian Ferguson, members of the communcations staff at the European Cyclists' Federation had to tell me when I visited their office in Brussels.
Listen to Julian's amusement when I start by telling him after my biking trip to his office, riding in Brussels wasn't so bad. I was surprised by the bike lanes stretching up from Brussels Gare Centraal, but as Julian explained, they are, as in many American cities, a patchwork affair. Chloe and Julian explain how the gridlock can--oddly--benefit a cyclist.
Julian is right: you'll spot great cycling infrastructure like this, (note the red path and bike light ahead) then blocks later, you're back on to the street where you might or might not find sharrow markings, or you're forced onto unmarked cobblestones (cobblestones lose all their charm on a bike like the Brompton). You could also be herded into construction zones where you'll have to hop off your bike and walk it through narrow chutes as pedestrians struggle to avoid getting hung up on your handlebars.

Still, it's a big difference from the Brussels I remember on my first trip here in 2006--one that makes cycling in an unfamiliar city much less daunting. And yes, that is a giant golden mussel that appears to be perched on my handlebar. This is Brussels, after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment