While electric bicycles are becoming increasingly visible in the marketspace, most Belgians prefer to stick with their conventional bike, according to analysis of a cycling study from Groupe de Recherche et d’Action des Cyclistes Quotidiens (GRACQ), an association which represents cyclists in French-speaking Belgium.
About 41% of Belgians still use a push bicycle, compared to 15.6% who use an electric one, according to the study, which was carried out among 2,000 Belgian adults (representative by region, gender, age and education) and conducted by Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport.
Electric bikes see a higher use in Flanders (22%) than in Wallonia (7%) or Brussels (5%), and the majority (59%) of home-to-work trips made on an electric bike are between 5 and 20 km.
From the age of 54, the rate of use for electric bikes increases from 13% to 22%. While the rate of use is the same for both genders, there’s a 12% use rate for higher education graduates compared to 21% for secondary school graduates.
The study found that more than 20% of those questioned intend to buy an electric bicycle (25 km/h or 45 km/h) and 7.8% plan to buy an unassisted bicycle.
“The rise of the electric bike is therefore confirmed in terms of purchase intentions,” said Luc Goffinet of GRACQ, who analysed the data, noting that this is most evident in Flanders.
“Flanders is already the leading European market for speed pedelecs.”
The “speed pedelec” is a bicycle limited to 45 km/h and is mainly used in Flanders by middle-aged men, according to the survey.
In addition to a preference for conventional bikes, what GRACQ also found was that safety weighs heavily on the minds of cyclists in all three regions of Belgium.
Around 45% of Brussels residents said that cycling wasn’t safe, compared to 37% of Walloons and 21% of Flemings.
Fourteen percent of bicycle users (12.5% of electric scooters) have had an accident in the last 3 years. That accident rate is 16% in Wallonia, 12.5% in Flanders and 28% in Brussels.
“There are therefore significant differences between regions, with a higher real and perceived risk of accident in Brussels,” said Goffinet.
“It should also be noted that Brussels also has the lowest mortality rate for cyclists (between 0 and 1 person killed out of an average of 70 to 80 cyclists killed each year in Belgium). If there is a higher risk of accidents, they are less fatal than in other regions of the country.”
The three main causes of accidents are an unsuitable road network or one in poor condition, a collision with a motorised vehicle, and loss of control.
Poor road quality is cited more in Brussels and Wallonia than in Flanders.
In terms of safety precautions, 96% of cyclists use lighting equipment when travelling at night, and 14% don’t use bike lights it in Wallonia and Brussels, compared to only 1% in Flanders.
Only about 27% of users wear a helmet (54% Wallonia, 41% Brussels, 21% Flanders).
Other analysis from GRACQ found that:
- Electric scooters are considered unsafe by almost 41.5% of respondents
- 66% of people who cycle to work receive a kilometre allowance, and this rate is much higher in Flanders (71.7%) than in Wallonia (44.7%) or Brussels (47.7%)
- Around 7.5% of people who cycle to work receive a company bike
- 41% of Belgians use a non-electric bicycle to travel at least once a year, with higher use in Flanders (55%) than in Wallonia (20%) or Brussels (25%)
- For non-electric bikes, from the age of 54 onwards, the rate of use falls from 44% to 33%
- There are more male users (47% of men compared to 35% of women) of non-electric bikes