Each day, an average of 34 cyclists are fined in Belgium, according to figures published by Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden in Flemish newspaper De Standaard on 4 August. Last year, the police fined a total of 12,517 cyclists.
Most commonly, cyclists received penalties for not having safety lights on their bikes, not adhering to traffic lights, and using mobile phones while on the move.
The police also fined 360 cyclists for drink-driving offences, while another 150 cyclists were fined for “riding without holding the handlebars or with an animal on a leash,” said Verlinden in response to questioning by MP Michel de Maegd.
De Maegd complained to the minister that there was a “feeling of impunity” in regard to offences committed by cyclists on Belgian roads.
Wout Baert, coordinator of the Fietsberaad Vlaanderen, a “knowledge centre” for cycling policy in Flanders, disagrees with de Maegd’s sentiment.
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“Cyclists and motorists are effectively punished in the same way today. Both are ‘drivers’ under the law and are treated equally,” he insists. However, Baert does recognise that the police logically pay more attention to the vehicles, due to their greater involvement in accidents and victims.
Belgians are increasingly ditching their cars and choosing to cycle to work, especially in Brussels.
The number of cyclists in the capital increased by 32% in February, compared to the same period last year. Greater bike traffic has significantly reduced the quantity of weekday rush hour traffic, as well as Brussels’ air quality.