SNCB’s new cycling strategy aims to make it easier to take your bike with you on the train by adding more trains with space for stowing bikes and increasing bicycle capacity on those headed to popular tourist destinations for cyclists, according to a press release from the Belgian rail company.
“As the bicycle market is booming and cyclists are increasingly opting for electric bicycles, there is a growing demand not only for more and easier-to-access bicycle parking facilities, but also for covered parking facilities with an access control system,” the company said.
“With its ambitious cycling strategy, the SNCB is committed to offering additional, quality capacity in its trains and stations.”
They also plan to improve signage and add more bicycle parking facilities, especially secure ones.
The measures have two goals, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet explained.
“For one, I want more people to abandon their cars for the train,” said Gilkinet.
“Secondly, I also want to make the bike-train combination even more attractive.”
SNCB plans to gradually introduce new double-decker trains with more bicycle capacity, making it easier for people without folding bikes to take leisure trips by train.
“Bicycles are playing an increasingly important role in train travel, a trend that has accelerated with the Covid-19 crisis,” SNCB said, and that they also see a clear demand for a more accessible and extensive offer of shared bikes.
“Today, one out of five commuters leaves their bike in the station's bike park. Other travelers take their folding bikes with them free of charge and can easily find a place to store them underneath or between the train seats.”
Their new cycling strategy includes some of the suggestions made by cycling advocacy groups back in April of this year, especially in regards to parking spaces.
The Belgian railway company is planning to increase the total number of available parking spaces for bicycles over the next few years to at least 150,000 (compared to 108,000 spaces today).
SNCB says that sales of bicycle trips have nearly doubled in the last 10 years, with 251,000 such trips (at a price of €4 per trip for conventional bicycles, with folding bicycles free of charge) taken in 2019 alone.
The total number of bicycle spaces in the SNCB's fleet of trains will therefore increase by 50% to 6,700 by 2025 (compared to 4,450 today), with almost half of those spaces accessible without the intervention of a train attendant and with a low boarding height.
“Since leisure travelers usually take the train with a conventional bicycle and during the weekend, the SNCB is working to increase bicycle capacity on trains running on busier routes,” said the company.
“The easy transition from bicycle to train or the loading of the bicycle on board the train will continue to promote the necessary modal shift.”
SNCB said they consulted with passenger and cyclist associations and took into account the experience of their own field staff in developing the new strategy.
“The SNCB will continue to adapt its bicycle strategy in the coming years to meet the expectations of its customers,” the company said.