Commuters are stuck in their cars

The way in which Flemish people travel to work has hardly changed in recent years. Only cycling offers some resistance to this trend.

Employees who have been commuting by car since 2005 have witnessed a tremendous increase in traffic jams on Flemish roads – to the annoyance of many. But getting stuck in traffic doesn't seem to tempt commuters out of their cars.

In 2005, just under 70% of Flemish commuters drove their commute alone, and this has hardly changed since then (see chart). The chart shows the results of the questionnaire held every three years by the Federal Public Service for Mobility among nearly four thousand employers, who together employ 1.5 million people.

The car is still by far the most popular mode of transport for commuters in Flanders. Companies located outside the cities even noticed a slight increase in the proportion of their employees travelling to work by car.

Even within city limits, the car accounts for more than half of all commuting. And the fact that each year the number of company cars continues to increase is undoubtedly one of the reasons for this.

Less carpooling and less walking

The share of alternative means of transport, such as carpooling or walking to work, has decreased over the past twelve years. Even public transport cannot successfully attract commuters who are fed up with sitting in traffic jams. The share of commuters travelling by train has increased slightly, but busses and trams – that also get stuck in traffic – have not gained in popularity at all.

Mobility research shows that commuters will only consider travelling by public transport instead of driving themselves if the travelling time will not take more than one and a half times as long as travelling by car. But a recent survey by the newspaper De Tijd based on data from Be-Mobile showed that, on average, travelling by train, bus and tram in Flanders is 67 percent slower than travelling by car.

Cycling is gaining popularity

The only alternative that is gaining popularity – and quite considerable at that – is the bike, with the share of commuters cycling to work rising from 12 to 17 percent. Overcrowded cycle lanes and long queues at city traffic lights illustrate this great success. “The increase since 2014 is even more spectacular”, says Sven Heyndrickx of the FPS for Mobility. “Meanwhile five times more Flemish people travel to work by bike than by bus or tram. There are various explanations for this, the introduction of the cycling allowance, company initiatives such as bicycle leasing, and the e-bike.”

Public transport is more popular in Brussels

In Brussels, the share of commuting by bike has more than tripled in twelve years, although, at only four percent, this share remains considerably lower than in Flanders. However, in the densely built capital city, public transport attracts more than 50 percent of commuters.

Source: De Standaard, 21 March 2019