DENNIS LICHT (c)

Flanders boasts over 30 "cycle libraries": "Children can swap bicycles as they grow up"

Flanders has 31 so-called "cycle libraries". Children can borrow bicycles there and give it back when the bicycle becomes too small. The initiative was started 10 years ago in Ghent, but has grown ever since. "It is a big success and municipalities are also joining now", says Lieven D'Hont, one of the driving forces behind the project. 

The organisation behind the cycle libraries is called "Op Wielekes" (on wheels). Over 1,600 people across Flanders have become a member of one of their 31 cycle libraries. These are depots with a large stock of bicycles, second-hand bicycles which can be borrowed by families. The initiative is meant for children, who have the opportunity to swap their bike for a bigger one as they grow up. Members pay a monthly fee for the service, but at affordable rates. 

The initiative was set up in Ghent with the help of volunteers. There are about 100 of them working for the organisation at present. "We can still use helping hands", says Lieven D'Hont of "Op Wielekes".  The system works well, he says: "We see that borrowed bicycles are being maintained well. In many cases, we even scrapped the deposit fee."  

East Flanders boasts the most cycle libraries (19), followed by Antwerp (7), Limburg (3) and Flemish Brabant (2). Meanwhile, 8 municipalities have joined the project. Companies are also starting to offer the service now. Fees are generally higher there, but the bicycles are often newer. 

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