Brussels cycle lanes – taking the rough with the smooth

Last week’s trip to Amsterdam prompts me to revisit one of my pet rants.

The surface of cycle lanes in Brussels.

Rue des Sables - Brussels

Typical state of Brussels cobbles

There was lots of cycling on cobbled streets in Amsterdam and in Brussels. I like a nice cobbled street, even if it does play havoc on a small wheeled folding bike. Cobbles are part of Belgian cycling folklore, you can’t be a Flandrian icon without that background as a hard man of the pavé. So I’ll forgive the truly diabolical state of repair of the cobbles in what is supposed to be the capital of Europe.But why, oh why do so many Brussels cycle lanes have to be made of tiled surfaces? It’s an awful surface, effectively a pavement for bikes. And mostly built beside smooth, welcoming tarmac.

Tiles on the Avenue de Tervuren cycle path at the Tervuren end

Avenue de Tervuren cycle path

Harder to ride on, difficult and expensive to maintain, really unwelcoming.The most frustrating stretch I have found was on Avenue de Tervuren, the Tervurenlaan. Direct cycle route all the way to Brussels, nicely segregated from the main road. But every bone in my body wants me to move to the welcoming tarmac beside me rather than stay on the tiles.

Avenue de Tervuren cycle path at the Tervuren end

This looks really inviting, doesn’t it?

I am house hunting out here at the moment but the idea of this being the first 5km of my daily commute is a bit depressing.It’s not as if there is a design standard that stops them.

There are much better examples – to the north of Brussels a new section around an industrial estate and to the south in Walloon Brabant a lovely smooth descent through the rhododendrons near Chateau de La Hulpe which is more common out in this province.  Critics will say that it is deficient because it isn’t properly segregated, but frankly this is supposed to be the transport of delight, you shouldn’t need to be hard man of Flanders to bike to work.

Cycle lane on road to La Hulpe

A welcoming cycle lane on road to La Hulpe

Proper tarmac cycle lane in Brussels

Proper tarmac cycle lane!

2 thoughts on “Brussels cycle lanes – taking the rough with the smooth

  1. Couldn’t agree more, Kevin. Most of the offending paths were designed and implemented too quickly on existing pedestrian pavements with only the fattest tyres in mind.

    My regular training route out of town runs down by the Woluwe Shopping Center and up the Avenue Emile Vandervelde to Wezembeek-Oppem and, whilst I’m grateful they bothered to set down a dedicated lane, riders are forced to ride across motorway sliproads unless they get clever with their route planning and the jarring paving stone surface is nothing short of appalling on a carbon bike.

    Like you said: on quiet mornings, I just ride the road!


    • Thanks for reading the blog Mike. It really is an odd mixture – I’m hoping when I get settled I can find some routes that suit me too.


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