Brussels, Belgium: A Load Story.
04.02.2022 | Out and about in ...
Brussels is famous for its historical streetscapes, its hills and vast woodlands. But commuters will also be familiar with its harsher features: cobbles, potholes and the road surfaces from long-past centuries. For that reason, filmmaker Robbrecht Desmet considers his Load with full suspension an impressive example of how one bike can change the way we think about city transport.
The nature of Robbrecht’s work as a photographer and filmmaker demands a high degree of flexibility. “After years of car sharing, I recently started leasing a fully electric car because my mobility needs – both privately and professionally – were no longer in line with the possibilities of on-demand car sharing.” Car sharing, as Robbrecht got to know it, usually requires a certain degree of planning ahead and fits in better with a regular 9-to-5 job and a daily routine that is more predictable than that of a freelancer, being involved in multiple projects at the same time.
“Since Belgium does not have a dense public transport network, I need an electric car for out-of -city transport and to travel greater distances – for family visits, shoots at distant locations or for transporting large camera equipment.” But Robbrecht’s passion for cycling urged him to find an alternative for the days moving to and from Brussels.
As a cyclist, putting in the weekly hours on his road bike, Robbrecht never considered an e-bike as an option for his mobility needs. He used a regular bike to go shopping and to cover all his daily distances. But living in Forest takes its toll: Robbrecht always needs to climb about 100 metres in altitude to reach his house – many would call it “exercise”. On hot summer days, the climb demands some freshening-up and a change of clothes, before Robbrecht can hop on the bike again and dash down into the city for his next appointment.
In late 2020, Robbrecht wanted to try something new and got himself a Load 60. Using the cargo bike changed his mobility routine drastically. He is currently working on his doctor thesis in the arts department and teaches Film Studies at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels. Robbrecht commutes about 20 kilometres on some days, moving between home, Mona’s (his daughter, who is turning 5) school, his studio and the campus – with all the necessary camera gear for the day, obviously, stashed safely and soundly in the cargo box, which is another benefit of the Load’s comfortable full-suspension.
The Load typifies all the advantages of any e-bike, as it can be used more feasibly for journeys on the hilly and rough terrain in Brussels. Yet, the Load is very lean for a cargo bike, meaning Robbrecht can move around with the flow of traffic. Every obligatory trip – fetching groceries, bringing and taking Mona – is stress-free and therefore more enjoyable. “The infrastructure in Brussels is not very well suited to the needs of cyclists in general”, Robbrecht says. “Although there’s been a significant increase in the number of bikes on the streets, cycling is still not as popular as in more bike-friendly cities like Gent or Antwerp. But for my hometown, a more sturdy bike like the Load does help a great deal to convey the message that it’s time for a change.”
And there are the weekends: Robbrecht and his family use the Load for little trips to their communal garden or visiting locations within or on the outskirts of the city. They enjoy a few lovely trips to their family in the countryside, managing to rack up 80 kilometres on a beautiful summer day. Then they charged the battery overnight and headed back to Brussels the next day.
“Honestly”, Robbrecht remarks, “today, I would have a hard time managing without the Load.” For him, the bike evolved into the perfect means of transportation within the city of Brussels, but also for medium-length journeys in nearby areas – every type of transport within a range of 20 kilometres, in his experience, can be best conquered with the Load: simply, because it is the fastest way to cover ground in urban traffic.
Brussels was one of the first cities to repurpose public space according to the people’s needs over the course of the coronavirus crisis in spring 2020: A speed limit of 20 km/h was applied city-wide and 40 km additional pop-up bike lanes were set up for commuters to avoid public transport and to switch to their bikes.
Since January 2021, a speed limit of 30 km/h applies regularly in the heart of Brussels to ensure long-term improvements in terms of road safety and air quality.