In FEMA we are always talking about the benefits of motorcycling. How you can move on while all the cars are stuck in traffic, how you always can find a place to leave your bike, and of course the fun of riding.
Today was one of those days that I really could experience this. The weather was fine: dry, 10 degrees Celsius, no low blinding sun. Ideal weather for a ride but more important: the weather certainly would not cause traffic jams. Nevertheless, they were there: the usual one on the E19 from Breda to Antwerp, the one on the Ring Antwerp, the one before the Ring Brussels on the E19 again and then suddenly there was a new one.
When I have to be in Brussels I take the quick way: get off the Ring direction Leuven, then the A40 to Brussels which turns into the Beyers Tunnel. When you exit the tunnel you are nearing the disreputable Schumann Roundabout. That trap where traffic always come to a standstill, because three lanes are forced into one to enter the four lane wide Wetstraat (for the French: Rue des Loi). Belgian logic I suppose, and not changed after years of works.
But today it was worse: already before the Beyers Tunnel the traffic on the E40 was jammed. Public transport still suffers from the attacks on 22 March, which forces many commuters and other visitors of Brussels into the car. Lack of maintenance leads to disintegrating traffic tunnels. Brussels has 27 of them and five railway tunnels. Most are built around the same period and they are all neglected. Several are closed now because they are too dangerous to enter which forces the already increased traffic on less roads.
Later today I heard from a colleague lobbyist, a brave woman who normally cycles in Brussels, that she had taken the bus for once. Normally she would have needed 20 minutes to get where we were, now she had left the bus after an hour to walk the rest of the route. And I, well I was just in time. The whole 130 kilometres had taken one and a half hour, which is a bit more than I am used to. But still: with the car or public transport I would never have managed to get there in time. It would have taken many more hours to get there. And now, I just parked my bike just where I had to be, alongside the Wetstraat. Try that with a car…
While I was splitting lanes before Antwerp, for the umpteenth time I had already wondered why I was almost the only one doing that, why didn’t all those people in their cars do what I did. I wondered about this again in Brussels, passing that long, long line of slow moving and stalling cars. And again while I parked my bike right in front of the building of the European Commission. Does anybody know the answer to this?
Written by Dolf Willigers