On our way back from an Easter break in Germany we stopped to visit the blossom fields of Limburg, the beautiful spring show in the apple and pear orchards of Flanders. And there we saw not only a beautiful scene, but also the most remarkable display of the electrically assisted bike revolution that I have seen so far.
The landscape was beautiful and we enjoyed a scenic lunch at one of five “Blossom Lounges”, pop-up hospitality spots in the middle of the orchards.
We enjoyed a walk along car free country lanes to “le Bon Vivant” lounge and food truck near St Truiden. But we were almost alone in our travel choice, as were the occasional cyclists on what we might call “traditional’ bikes.
The rest? On e-bikes. They swarmed in the bright sunshine, from all directions, of all body types, genders, ages and styles. Sporty riders, comfy riders, families, pairs, groups and solos. Many stopped at the lounge area for food and drink, but many just drifted by, so I could never keep count of how many passed in just the hour we were there.
Lots of them were clearly following the maps provided by Limburg tourism and some were also on locally hired bikes, credit to the promotional activity of the Province who have branded themselves the “Bicycle Paradise”.
I thought it was fantastic, this melting pot of people, many of whom could never be called “cyclists” or “cycle tourists” in any country that insists that people who like bikes have to be classified into a tribe.
That is a revolution in its own right, a huge entry of new people into cycling. But when I thought about the consequential benefits it is clear that the reach of this revolution is so much more.
This Blossom Lounge has been here only two years, and looked to be employing at least ten people, a great seasonal uplift in a rural area. The viability of this site seems to depend entirely on the e-bikers, so the decision to open more venues like this must be a recognition of their impact, plus other venues like the local towns and villages. This forms a feedback loop, because with this economic success the province will invest more in all forms of cycling.
From a bike industry point of view these scenes make the news that the Netherlands sold more e-bikes than bikes for adults last year look like a beginner’s step. Any couple that passed us today could be riding over €5000 of bikes and equipment, a level that would previously have been just for bike nuts. The proportion of e-bikes seen and the high value of the equipment passing us today is the sign of a real bike boom that is changing the fortunes of the bike industry beyond recognition as it spreads across Europe.
And yes, it is a fantastic way to enjoy a beautiful cycling landscape on this stunning spring afternoon – Fietsparadijs Limburg is indeed E-fietsparadijs Limburg.