Handshake joins FastTrack capacity building workshops

Author: Sanne Vanderstraeten and Bart Slabbinck

An exciting collaboration is in the works between Handshake and another leading CIVITAS project, FastTrack.

FastTrack works with twenty urban and peri-urban areas across Europe to accelerate (or ‘fast track’) sustainable mobility innovations. One of the four topical clusters within the project focuses on cycling in urban spaces. The city of Antwerp takes on the role of Ambassador City in this particular cluster, followed in its tracks by, amongst others, one Slovenian and two Romanian cities.

Accelerating (or fast tracking) innovations means forging links with external experts, exchanging knowledge and, thus, building capacity. This is where Handshake comes in! Handshake Future Cycling Capitals, Bruges and Kraków, were invited to share their experiences as cycling cities during two FastTrack capacity building workshops, the last of which took place online on Thursday 31 March. Two Handshakers, Bart Slabbinck (Bruges' Handshake Project Manager) and Sanne Vanderstraeten (Mobiel 21) shared their own perspectives on the experience.

Getting inspired by Bruges

“I didn’t hesitate for a moment when Sanne asked me to share Bruges’ story”, recalled Bart. “First and foremost, participating in workshops follows the spirit of Handshake; which is, cities inspiring other cities. Sanne’s request also inspired me to reflect on our city’s achievements, both in terms of cycling network planning and cycling infrastructure design.”

In the first FastTrack workshop, on cycling network planning, participants learned about the urban trail FR30, or ‘Stadsfietsroute Brugge’. To consider potential improvements to Bruges’ cycling network, Bart and his colleagues followed two steps. First, they analysed their traffic model which revealed the commuter patterns, thereby defining the desired cycling corridors. Next, they defined the exact trajectories by analysing the urban DNA. From the get-go, it was clear that it was undesirable to develop cycling highways that crossed through the heart of the medieval city centre. The team thus sought to develop a cycling network that respects and highlights Bruges’ historical and urban qualities, so they chose the city’s green-blue network of parks and canals as a guiding framework for the future FR30. Upon this decision, they developed a toolbox to smoothly integrate the FR30 into the existing cycling infrastructure.

During the second FastTrack workshop, which focused on cycling infrastructure design, attendees took a closer look at the abovementioned toolbox. Bart put a provocative statement forward to the room: “you don’t need traffic planners, you need storytellers”. The toolbox was designed to help with the design of a city for people, not cars; where mobility is recognized as a means to participate in city life, but never as the ultimate goal of infrastructure design. Such a perspective promotes the idea of a real paradigm shift.

From traffic hot spot to pedestrian passage

To illustrate how this toolbox works in practice, and might be applied within other cities in FastTrack, Bart zoomed in on the mobility infrastructure project being implemented outside Bruges train station. “This is the quintessential traffic hot spot in Bruges, which could easily be resolved by building a car tunnel. Given that this would negatively impact the urban fabric, we chose look beyond the obvious, for high-quality solutions".

Initially, Bart and his team proposed creating a pedestrian tunnel underneath the R30 ring road. This idea matured, and the proposed tunnel turned into a broad pedestrian passage underneath an elevated R30. Putting the ring road on a fixed road bridge, with a span of 30-40 metres, provided the opportunity and the space to expand the train station square and connect it, via the new passage, to the Vesten, the green historical ramparts of the city.

The exchange continues

According to Sanne, “Bart’s enthusiasm and passion for sustainable urban mobility is infectious. It’s no wonder we invited him to the FastTrack events, not once but twice". Sanne, who is involved in both Handshake and FastTrack, formed the alliance between the two projects.

In FastTrack’s first phase, the project sought to inspire and inform participants about the mobility innovations that are available. Years ago, Future Cycling Capitals like Bruges were in a similar state as the FastTrack cities are today. Cities like Bruges show how you can benefit from the experiences of other cities and still tell your own story as a Cycling Capital.

In addition to the Handshake project, FastTrack has forged alliances with other European projects, innovative suppliers, researchers and external experts.

During the next Capacity Building Week, held this summer in Antwerp, inspiring innovations, like regional-level e-bike sharing schemes, will be on display to showcase what can be achieved. Discussion topics will include which stakeholders to involve, how to acquire financing, and so on. In short, Sanne concludes, “there is still a lot more potential to share knowledge and shake hands beyond project borders”.

Check out Bart's presentations below.

Cycling Network: Bruges' Stadsfietsroute


Bart Slabbinck's presentation from the November 2021 capacity building workshop hosted by CIVITAS project, FastTrack.

Resource page

Publication date: Wed 13 Apr 2022

Author: Bart Slabbinck

Designing Cycling Infrastructure


Bart Slabbinck's presentation from the March 2022 capacity building workshop hosted by CIVITAS project, FastTrack.

Resource page

Publication date: Wed 13 Apr 2022

Author: Bart Slabbinck

This project has received funding from the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no 769177.

The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the CIVITAS Handshake project and in no way reflects the views of the European Commission.