I recently travelled to Belgium and rode the Tour of Flanders Summer Sportive with a group of friends, which was an altogether amazing experience on many levels.
The event itself was impeccably organised with good food stops with grub you’d actually want to eat and that’s appropriate for the event, not branded sports goo out purely for a marketing blitz inducing you to spend money you don’t nerd to. The cobbles, the hills, and the cobbled hills were tremendously challenging and I don’t remember ever being quite so challenged on a bike.
I’ve been told many times that riding a bike in Belgium is a brilliant experience and something you really have to try. A bit like parenting, it’s not something you can appreciate until you experience it yourself! The most striking thing about riding a bike in Belgium (notwithstanding the cobbles of course) is the behaviour of drivers on the roads. Cyclists seem to be king! How cool is that? Drivers generally give priority to cyclists. You come up to a roundabout and vehicles already on the roundabout stop and let you pull out. You come up to a T-junction and whether you’re going left in, left out, right in or right out, motorised vehicles give way to you.
This is really quite startling at first and after a while, when you get used to it you begin to ride with a sense of security and safety. This is a stark contrast to the all-out war that is waged on the roads of the UK every day. If I ride out my own house, whatever time night or day, I know that within two minutes someone will drive at me like I don’t exist. I’m a cyclist, I don’t count, I’m a nuisance.
You see a lot more people cycling in Belgium, unsurprisingly, and it’s not unusual to see Belgians on bikes pulling out of junctions without even checking. They know they have priority. They know they are safe.
It’s not unusual to see whole families riding their bikes through city centres. It just looks a bit odd at first but it’s brilliant to see.
Why can’t we be more like Belgium?! So polite. So courteous. So Belgian!