Cycling in Brussels as an entrepreneur

4 Apr 2024 | entrepreneurship

Is cycling in the Belgian and European capitals life-threatening? Those days are thankfully a few years behind us. Getting around this city by bicycle is not only sustainable and a quick way to get around, it’s also a good workout. Unsure about biking in Brussels? Find out the pros and cons in this article.

Disclaimer: This article was written in a personal capacity. No rights can be derived from this article; I am a cycling web designer and photographer, not a legal or traffic expert! Important detail: I ride a regular bike, not an electric one.

Advantages and disadvantages of cycling in Brussels

Early morning photo shoot at Brussels-South station, afternoon meeting at Merode and at 3 p.m. another web design session at Parc Josaphat? By car a hell and by public transport a workout for your patience, but by bike you get there in no time. Depending on weather and traffic, all three of these destinations are fifteen minutes to a half-hour bike ride away from each other.

Cycling in Brussels I have been doing for more than ten years. I wouldn’t want anything else. Still, I regularly meet other people who hesitate whether or not to bike in this capital city. Not yet converted, but want to take the plunge? Let’s go over the pros and cons.

Seven advantages of cycling in Brussels

For the doubters: there really are more advantages than disadvantages, check it out:

1. Sustainable transport

Are you riding a regular, i.e. not electric, bike? Then you are immediately super sustainable. You don’t emit CO2 at all, it’s as simple as that. After all, you do not have a vélo electrique, but a vélo musculaire, or bicycle by pedal power! “Vélo musculaire,” by the way, is a French term I’ve only heard in Brussels since 2023. Maybe that says something about the amount of electric bikes present!

Entrepreneurs who want to give something back to society are also called “changemakers” or “impact entrepreneurs.” Read more about entrepreneurship with impact here.

2. Rapid transport

As a cyclist, you’ll whizz right past the infamous Brussels traffic jams! Did you know that biking in Brussels is even faster than taking public transportation? And yes, it is even faster than the subway on certain routes! Up to 10 km, you are the fastest to go door to door. You don’t stand in traffic jams, don’t have to go in and out of the subway, and you don’t have to wait for your means of transportation either!

An example of entrepreneurs who travel a lot are digital nomads, which is not always so sustainable. Wondering how it can be done? Discover tips for the sustainable digital nomad here.

3. Good infrastructure in development

Today there are beautiful, wide bike paths along the major boulevards. You feel like royalty as a cyclist. In some small streets it is a different story and there is still plenty of work to do. Rome wasn’t built in a day either. Furthermore, under the center’s piétonnier or pedestrian zone, you have two large guarded bike racks in metro stations De Brouckère and Beurs. Tip: a subscription for these grands parkings costs only € 15 per year !

4. Solid workout

Cyclists in Brussels don’t really need a gym subscription, because those who ride up and down hills daily develop strong muscles and good fitness. An idea for the sporty among us: try climbing the Rue de la Victoire in Saint-Gilles by bike, from all the way down at the Porte de Hal to the top of Ma Campagne!

5. You can ask for a bicycle allowance

Both business owners and salaried people can apply for a bicycle allowance. By 2024, this now rises to €0,27 per kilometer. Good to know: you don’t have to pay additional taxes on this.

6. For business owners: bicycle equipment is tax deductible

Buying a new bike, bike helmet or pannier? Just checking with your accountant, because this is tax deductible. And effectively best to seek advice from your fiscal hero first.

7. You see a lot

The bicycle is an ideal mode of transportation for photographers and other creative professions. So I usually have my camera with me in my backpack, because in a city like Brussels, you encounter all kinds of things. Colorful demonstrations, interesting lighting or a new fruit stand? Perfect for capturing city life between business or scouting for locations for photo shoots!

8. Getting ideas along the way

While cycling, you get into a flow. When you are absorbed in the activity, you can forget your worries for a moment. And it is precisely at those moments that you can get the best ideas, wrote a journalist from De Correspondent in 2021. This is how many a web design idea, technical IT solution or photography project of mine came about while cycling!

Five disadvantages of cycling in Brussels

Still, there are some drawbacks to cycling in Brussels. Depending on your personal situation, some issues may weigh more heavily.

1. Photogenic but incredibly irritating: cobblestones

Des pavés or cobblestones adorn many a Brussels old street. Great for a movie set or a photo shoot, but hell to drive over. You get totally shaken up there on your steel steed. By the way, good news for the cyclist, but bad news for the nostalgic: cobblestones are gradually disappearing from our streetscape.

Brussels, by the way, is a very photogenic city and definitely worth staying for a longer time. Interested? Then read the guide “Brussels for digital nomads” here.

2. Hilly city profile

Whizzing down a hill on your bike is wonderful. Riding uphill, on the other hand, requires effort. This is the convincing argument for many a Brussels native to switch to an electric bike after all. Like me, do you have energy to spare? Then go for a vélo muscular and consider it a sport!

3. Rain in the valleys, rain on the hilltops

A city in northwestern Europe located relatively far inland with strong relief demands it: prolonged rainfall. Unlike in, say, Antwerp or Amsterdam, rain showers here linger long until they are completely rained out. That’s because of the relief: low-hanging clouds can’t move away quickly here. A raincoat, rain pants and rain guards for shoes are unfortunately a must for cyclists in Brussels.

4. Traffic safety for bicyclists

With the expanding bicycle infrastructure, traffic safety for cyclists is improving. Small streets still remain a problem, especially with cars getting wider every year. All in all, though, I can conclude that more and more motorists can interact with cyclists in a positive way.

5. Bicycle theft

In addition, bicycle theft is comparable to large cities in the Netherlands. To prevent this, I have two locks to secure my front and rear wheel to bike bars. Should I be at the piétonnier? Then the bike goes into the underground bike park. Should I be with a principal? Then I always kindly ask if I can put the bike inside.

Conclusion

So cycling in Brussels is not only sustainable, but also fast and healthy. Only sometimes rain, bike thieves and bike-unfriendly narrow streets can make it a little less pleasant. It’s up to you whether or not to go cycling.

Do you also cycle in Brussels?

Disclaimer: This article was written in a personal capacity. No rights can be derived from this article; I am a cycling web designer and photographer, not a legal or traffic expert! Important detail: I ride a regular bike, not an electric one.

About Jochem

I am Jochem Oomen, web designer and photographer. My goal is to help sustainable entrepreneurs, organizations and schools gain more customers, participants or students. I do this through sustainable web design and minimalist photography. Read more about me here.

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