How has Antwerp empowered its citizens?

Antwerp is the biggest city in the Flemish region of Belgium, with a population of 512.000 inhabitants. The modal split in Antwerp is 20% walking, 23% cycling, 14% public transport and 40% private motor vehicle. Antwerp’s mobility management plan focuses on empowering a modal shift from using the private car to using bike instead.


Belgium’s second biggest city and largest port, Antwerp is a thriving city with a population of 524,000, which represents around 8% of the Flemish population. Before 2030, Antwerp expects a growth of circa 60,000 more inhabitants. The wider Antwerp region has a total population of 1,190,769 giving the city a sizable commuting population.


The Master Plan 2020 was drawn up by the Flemish government to address the road congestion confronting Antwerp and its environs. Substantial investment in all transport modes should guarantee more fluent traffic, safer roads and a higher quality of life.

The plan aims to shift half of all movement in the wider Antwerp region towards more sustainable modes of transport by 2020. This will necessitate major construction works to expand public transport networks, improve and extend cycle paths, expand existing Park and Rides and construct new ones, widen the Albert canal and heighten its railway bridges, and to complete the Antwerp Ring Road. Work began in the first half of 2016 and will last until at least 2024.

Antwerp decided to use these works to trigger a sustainable modal shift of at least 20,000 individual car journeys by Conventionally Fuelled Vehicles (CFVs) to other modes of transport, corresponding to about 1/4 of all car journeys in the morning rush hour. The city uses the following incentives to promote cycling:

  • Free bike trials for employees and businesses.
  • Discounts for employees (who make a modal shift from car to bike for at least 2 days a week) buying a new bike (based on the amount of cycling they do) or having their bike repaired/maintained.
  • Cycling leaderboards to promote competition between employers and between employees.


‘Smart ways to Antwerp’ is an umbrella campaign that included the EMPOWER scheme and the Antwerp Employer approach, targeting approximately 1.5 million inhabitants in the broader Antwerp region.

The Antwerp Employer and EMPOWER schemes combined to target 219 employers covering about 100,000 employees, while an approach with particular emphasis on the EMPOWER Scheme was presented to 159 employers covering around 70,000 employees. 83 employers representing 43,000 employees signed up to a ‘Smart ways to Antwerp/EMPOWER’ contract and the Antwerp Take-Up City (TUC) scheme was implemented at 50 workplaces servicing around 23,000 employees.

The Antwerp Employers approach used a range of ICT tools and measures. EMPOWER provided the ‘Bike discount scheme’.


The actual situation before implementation of the EMPOWER Bike Discount scheme formed the baseline. On a company level, the Antwerp employer approach always started with a mobility scan to provide the baseline modal split before any initiative aimed at achieving a modal shift had been implemented.

Individual applicants were required to complete an online form to show they met the conditions for participation. The first baseline was measured in February 2017 at the Scheme launch but employers were able to join throughout the scheme so baseline dates were distributed across the period. The first batch of follow-up surveys was sent to all 1,345 approved participants who had been participating in the scheme for at least 4 months by January 2018. In future, the first follow-up survey will be sent 4 months after approval and the second follow-up survey 14 months after approval.

The results of the first survey showed that around 75% of the 1,345 participants were on track to make a permanent modal shift. It also revealed that for most participants, avoiding traffic jams is the main reason to participate at the Bike Discount Scheme.

Antwerp’s pioneering role has been recognised by an invitation to explain the Antwerp Employers approach and EMPOWER Bike Discount scheme to the council of the Antwerp transport region with a view to expanding the schemes to new employers and to other municipalities/cities in the region.


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