Posted on September 9, 2011 by rodney
Tags: leuven, bike

Now that we have arrived in Belgium it is time to put our all-American touring bikes (Cannondale and Surly) down in the basement secured with 4lbs (1.9kg) of trusty Kryptonite™ New York Lock® and get some wheels which are more suited to the urban environment.

There is a bike lease scheme here called Velo where you can rent bikes for a year or so for an amount which is quite similar to the actual value of the bicycle including its ABUS lock.

Here is mine.

Mijn fiets

Mijn fiets

I wanted a Gazelle but there were none available at the time but this one is still nice. He is an elegant rustic black painted and he has a beautiful pre-weathered Brooks leather saddle. The brakes are more or less effective if you are patient and have time to stop.

Now that I have my city bike I feel like a proper Belgian, and can proudly sit upright on my bike while riding to the city hall to complete the eighth step in the identity card registration process.

It has to be said that Leuven has an excellent environment for cycling and walking. They have just lowered the speed limit to 30km/h inside the ring but the traffic is low anyway due to the lack of subsidised parking. Importantly, most drivers also ride their bikes and walk, so the majority of car drivers are courteous to the point of stopping for pedestrians even when they have clear right of way.

Two Sundays ago the city held an auto-free day and it was beautifully quiet without the sound of large vehicles. But actually it wasn’t significantly quieter than normal. The car has almost been tamed. Can you imagine a day in Perth without motor vehicles?! For a start there would be no way to get to the shopping centre and the beach, but wouldn’t it be so peaceful?

Also they take cycling infrastructure fairly seriously here. The newspapers have gone as far as asking their readers to report their least favourite bicycling paths. It’s something similar to the West Australian newspaper’s campaigns to nominate which roads make you so angry you want to glass a bouncer. But actually the worst cycling road reported within Leuven isn’t really that bad. It’s quite nice actually, except you have to be careful not to run over shoppers who cross the road without looking.

I have been following David Hembrow’s blog for some time. He is a pom living in The Netherlands and has been regularly documenting what a fantastic place for cycling it is there compared to the U.K., or anywhere else really. They have cycling facilities which are so sensible and practical that sandgropers could only dream about them. Perhaps their inspiration comes from going to the coffee shop after the weekend ride, I don’t know.

I won’t even mention helmets… they just don’t seem necessary in town. Well actually now that I’ve mentioned them, we will be pulling them out of the cupboard for our ride to Hasselt tomorrow. But otherwise, they have been in the cupboard. I was pleased to hear that Mr Cycling Tips has had the good sense and grace to (with qualifications) withdraw his support for helmet compulsion. Actually I didn’t read the whole article… can’t stand the blog. But now that some chump blogger has changed his mind, somehow I feel my wind-in-the-hair bareheaded cruises along the Swan have been vindicated.

Anyway that’s enough yabbering for one day, in summary… um never mind… bye for now…

P.S. there are few links to some Dutch language web pages. You can probably– like me– barely understand them. I suggest the google translate robot or using google chrome web browser which can automatically translate strange tongues into a proper language.