It is no secret that Belgium has a soft-spot for cars: in 2021, almost 80% of commutes were (at least partly) carried out in cars rather than public or active (walking/cycling etc.) transport. 22% of workers have a car provided by their company and there are more than ever on Belgium's roads.
According to data collected by HR group Acerta, this figure continues to rise, in spite of numerous initiatives to incentivise people to use other means of transport. Moreover, a significant portion of the six million cars in Belgium are company cars. Electrive – an industry service for electric mobility – puts the figure at around 600,000 or one in ten.
However, although accounting for only 10% of cars on Belgian roads, company cars punch above their weight when it comes to how much they are driven: they cover some 20% of total distance covered.
Certainly, this might be attributed in part to the pandemic and the fear that public transportation is a hotbed for coronavirus. Yet recent figures from the Brussels public transport company STIB indicate that passenger numbers are approaching pre-pandemic levels with services running at 90% of 2019 levels. Furthermore, improvements to infrastructure should dispel concerns of overcrowding, even when teleworking wanes as people return to offices.
Cars and the green transition
Whatever the reasons, Acerta calculates that 60% of workers still choose to go to work by car. Yet with momentum growing to make the country greener, transport is one area that needs considerable attention if Belgium is going to achieve national and Europe-wide climate objectives, such as the EU commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030.
To this end, that 67% of company cars run on diesel highlights the need for these vehicles to be brought in line with the country's environmental goals. It is true that the proportion hybrid and electric company cars is growing year on year, but currently electric company cars make up only 1.4% of the fleet.
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Reports from L'Echo show that Belgians generally live within 20km of their workplace – a distance that, with some intelligent public planning, could be covered far more efficiently by a network of well-coordinated public transport.
And the government continues to introduce regulations that prohibit more polluting vehicles from circulating in Belgian metropolises.
Belgian love for bikes
Alongside observing Belgium's attachment to company cars, Acerta researchers did note that bicycles are also a popular means of getting to work with one in three making their commute by bike.
"Bicycles continue to be the transport of choice for many on the way to work. However, we did not observe much growth in this area compared to 2020."
Cycling is also a seasonal choice, with less than 15% of Belgian workers cycling to work throughout the year.