Figures for cycling in Bruges are a little hard to come by, but from this Fietsberaad document [pdf], cycling in the city seems to form between 15-20% of all trips.
It’s certainly the most ‘Dutch’ place I’ve visited outside of the Netherlands, in terms of the amount of cycling, and the types of people riding bikes – broadly, a representative cross-section of the population at large. It’s also a very walkable city. It feels safe and comfortable, and easy to get about on foot.
I think this connection between walkability and high cycling levels is more general. I found Strasbourg to be a very pleasant city to walk around – this is a city that has some of the highest levels of cycle use in France.
Principally, it means that fewer trips are being made by car, which has several obvious advantages for those walking. It’s just easier to cross the road when there are fewer cars and more bikes. Bikes are far smaller, they travel more slowly, and the person on them has an interest in avoiding you.
Similarly, with high levels of cycling use, and low levels of motor vehicle use, the need for traffic control at junctions becomes unnecessary. That means no push buttons to cross roads, or multiple staggered crossings. Junctions are easy to walk across. The level of signalisation in Dutch towns and cities is far, far lower than in Britain, even in places with high levels of ‘traffic’.
Less directly, towns and cities with high levels of cycling are safer for pedestrians (there are simply fewer motor vehicles which have the potential to harm you), and they are also more attractive, and quieter.
We need to move beyond the notion that cycling is something antagonistic to walking – something ‘extra’ that needs to be accommodated in the streetscape alongside walking and driving – and realise that it is a crucial way of improving the experience of walking itself.