World News: Belgian Bike Security, War on Motorists & Danes Embrace Helmets

A Brussels bike registration program to combat rising rates of bicycle theft in the Belgian capital will be extended to the rest of the country from January.

More than 45,200 bicycles have been registered with the MyBike system in Brussels since it was launched in 2019 and, amid growing rates of bicycle theft throughout the country, the centralised register is being implemented for the whole country.

Participating bike owners receive a sticker with a unique QR code that is displayed on their bicycle. Information about the bike is then matched to the code and stored in a secure digital system.

If the bike is stolen and reported to MyBike by the owner, community members who find the bike, or have been offered the bike for sale, can scan the code and see that it has been stolen.

Police can also scan the code and easily link the bike back to its owner.

According to a report by European light electric vehicle association LEVA-EU, it is proposed the federal government will manage the central register, while each region will develop its own user online portal and help desk, in collaboration with police.

Police statistics shows 26,510 bicycles were reported stolen in Belgium in 2021 and that rose to 30,300 last year. While that is still down on the 37,600 reported stolen in 2008 and 39,300 in 2009, it is estimated real theft numbers are probably three times higher, because most thefts are not reported.

Insurance companies are reportedly putting tighter conditions on how they will provide bicycle coverage in Belgium, including stipulations that bikes will only be covered if they are parked in a locked and fully enclosed, including covered, private space.

MyBike is a key initiative in the Federal Government’s Be Cyclist program to promote the use of bikes in Belgium.

Scientist Slams Claims of War on Motorists

A UK chief scientist for behaviour change has slammed politicians who undermine campaigns for “sensible” speed limits by labelling them a “war on motorists”.

The “well-worn phrase” is lazy, misguided and potentially offensive, the Transport Research Laboratory’s chief scientist for behavioural sciences, Dr Shaun Helman, says in a column recently published on the group’s website.

“When politicians say ‘war on the motorist’ they probably think they are just using a phrase that at best has entered common usage, or at worst has been shown in focus groups to do the best job of appealing to polarised viewpoints,” he writes.

“I doubt that many who use the phrase stop to really think about its connotations.

“If politicians wish to retain some credibility in their language, rather than talking about a 20mph speed limit being a (figurative) ‘war on the motorist’ they would do well to talk about a 30mph limit being a (literal) ‘war on the pedestrian’ in terms of the injuries sustained.”

He said the issue has recently escalated in public debate because of the ‘default 20mph’ policy adopted in Wales. While advocates have been talking up the safety benefits, “those opposed are invoking the well-worn phrase of this being a ‘war on the motorist’.

“It uses a word – war – that is synonymous with violence, but then points this meaning at the car drivers who are relatively safe from harm in lower speed collisions, rather than the pedestrians and other vulnerable road users who are more likely to suffer violent injuries.

“The added irony is that the injuries sustained by those vulnerable road users in collisions with vehicles, like those sustained by combatants in wars, are often substantial (even at 30mph).

“By using the phrase ‘war on the motorist’ they not only offend, but they draw attention away from the substantial injury burden imparted by road traffic collisions. A frank admission of this would be more useful to the wider debate here than platitudes designed for headline writers.

“The real debate of course is larger than language. It is addressing the question of why we do not treat violence and injury from road traffic in the same way we treat violence and injury from other sources – using a true systems-based approach with known evidence-based interventions.

“And even if the debate is larger than language, language is still important in the debate. A society in which we see injury and death on the road for what it really is – avoidable violence – will hopefully be a society in which we are slower to resort to lazy metaphors in defending our resistance to change.”

Helmet Use Rises in Denmark

Bicycle helmet use in Denmark has increased substantially during the past two decades, despite an absence of laws demanding their use, according to a recently released study.

While Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmet laws remain a polarising point of contention among cycling advocates, the study reveals the proportion of Danish riders wearing helmets has increased from 6.3% in 2004 to 27.6% in 2014 and 49.8% in 2022.

Similarly, the levels among school-aged riders, six to 16 years, rose from 33.4% to 59.5% and 78.5% over the same period.

The study report’s author, Bjørn Olsson, said the increases could be the result of a nationwide campaign to encourage helmet wearing, focusing on traffic safety education and behaviour change.

He suggests it could also be a symptom of “more safety-oriented behaviour in road traffic in general” and a self-perpetuating trend as riders saw more of their peers wearing helmets.

Bjørn says while Danish cycling safety groups had not recommended helmet legislation, there was consensus on the need to recommend and promote helmet use.

“Legislation and proposals of legislation on helmet use for cyclists have sparked considerable debate among policymakers and experts, and several studies have evaluated the effects of introducing helmet laws,” he says.
“Systematic reviews on the impacts of helmet legislation show that introducing such laws in general bring about significant increases in helmet use and significant reductions in head injuries.

“Regarding the hypothesis that helmet laws could deter some people from cycling, which has been one of the major concerns around introducing helmet laws, the evidence is mixed.

“Instead, helmet use has been encouraged through behaviour change campaigns and traffic safety education in primary and secondary schools.”

Japan Mobility Show

Tokyo Motor Show, one of the world’s top five automotive expos, has joined the growing list of motor shows broadening its horizons to include micromobility.

The biennial event was renamed as the Japan Mobility Show for its 2023 instalment, held from 26th October to 5th November, and attracted a major influx of exhibitors.

A total of 475 enterprises took part in this year’s show, compared to 192 companies at the final edition of the Tokyo Motor Show in 2019.

Eurobike Global Expansion

The world’s biggest bicycle and micromobility trade show, Eurobike, is further elevating its international status by expanding into Indonesia and Turkey next year.

Eurobike’s organising body, fairnamic, has announced it will hold Eurobike Istanbul in Turkey on 28th March and Asiabike Jakarta from 30th April to 4th May.

fairnamic says both new events coincide with well-established mobility events and the trade fair organizers are drawing on strong partnerships and their international networks.

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