The TV programme ‘Make Belgium Great Again’ shocked five politicians by confronting them with 500 family members of cyclists who died in car accidents to raise the issue of poor cycling infrastructure in the Region.
The aim of the programme is to try to make Belgium “great” by shining a light on small or bigger problems in everyday life and trying to solve them. One of the items on Sunday was traffic safety, specifically in regards to cyclists.
The TV-programme assembled five prominent politicians, one from each big political party in Flanders, Meyrem Almaci (Groen), Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), Hilde Crevits (CD&V), John Crombez (s.pa) and Ben Weyts (N-VA), to go for a ‘pleasant bike ride on a nice summer evening’.
The programme had the politicians bike along a number of notorious “murder strips” where accidents with cyclists often happen, such as cycle paths that suddenly stop or are interrupted because houses are in the middle of them, forcing cyclists to make a “side jump” on the car lanes.
After their bike ride, they were confronted by 500 family members or loved ones of cyclists who have all died in road accidents because of similar bad infrastructure.
“We did not just want to make the umpteenth item about cyclists and traffic safety, we wanted to make an actual impact. In the end, we opted for this scenario. The politicians involved were not all equally happy about it, but the creases have been smoothened out now,” said Ellen Vanhove, head of the editorial staff of the programme, reports Het Laatste Nieuws. “We did not want to make it a policy discussion. The important thing is traffic safety here,” she added.
Belgium is one of the 3 worst performing countries in terms of bicycle fatality in Europe, according to the VIAS institute for traffic safety. In 2018, a cyclist died in Belgian traffic almost every week, and 28 people were injured on the bike every day.
“This hits hard. This always hits hard. I know that we are supposed to be able to solve it all. But sometimes I feel pretty powerless,” said Ben Weyts. “There was a kind of auction at the last elections about the budget for traffic safety. Some people want €200 million, others €300 million. That is good a good thing, but the problem will not be solved with money alone,” he added.
Alexander De Croo admitted that he does not dare to let his child go to school by bike after the confrontation.
The programme called on all Flemish people to take part in a bicycle tour in the five Flemish provinces on Friday 1 November. “By taking to the streets together, we hope to demonstrate the importance we attach to safer bicycle traffic in our country,” it stated.
“Too many bicycle paths and roads are still missing in Flanders. The existing infrastructure is often in poor condition or is interrupted by dangerous intersections. It should come as no surprise to us that the number of traffic accidents involving cyclists is increasing. It is high time that Belgium becomes safe for cyclists. We want to send a clear signal to our government,” said Roel De Cleen van OVK in De Standaard, the organisation for parents of children who died in a road accident.
The Brussels Times