Famous for its motorsport race track Circuit Zolder, the municipality of Heusden-Zolder in the north-east of Belgium is also a renowned cycling venue.
Already hosts of a range of cycling events across all levels, it is now gearing up to welcome the UCI BMX World Championships, from July 23 to 27, at Circuit Zolder’s BMX track.
This UCI Bike City has hosted 17 UCI events and is using the upcoming UCI BMX World Championships to further motivate its population to get involved in cycling, not least by giving all inhabitants free access to the BMX complex thanks to a partnership between the municipality and Circuit Zolder.
To encourage passion for the big event, the municipality joined with neighbouring municipalities to organise a “Summer Kickx off” event - a sports camp for youths aged 12 and over from all towns across the region who had the chance to participate in different sports. Those taking part in the programme in Heusden-Zolder were able to ride on the BMX Track, giving them an opportunity to learn more about the UCI World Championships.
During the big event itself, it will be the school holidays in Belgium, and visiting youth groups camping in the vicinity will be invited on a special guided tour of the Circuit Zolder complex, including the BMX track being used for the UCI World Championships. Meanwhile, as part of the programme of side events, spectators and local residents will be able to take part in the Marc Wauters Classic ride - a sportive challenge expected to attract over 700 participants.
Committing to cycling for all
Concerning cycling promotion in general, the city invests significantly in cycling infrastructure, including club buildings, dedicated terrain, sites for sporting events and secure bike storage. One key focus of this investment has been the renovation of the Cycling Centre at Circuit Zolder.
The city has been making a concerted effort to encourage children to ride their bikes. Cycle paths leading to schools have been adjusted, and routes popular among children digitalised, to provide information on safer cycling routes more easily.
Bicycle education for all is a big priority – from children starting out on a bike, to seniors learning how to ride an e-bike safely, and immigrants being given their first cycling lessons.
Heusden-Zolder also recognises the importance of cycling and tourism, and has been working on improving facilities for holiday makers and visitors. Recent years have seen the creation of new digital maps, more attractive routes and linking great sport events with tourism. Some milestones include a 59km mountain bike track across the region, and construction of a UCI Level-A BMX track. Discussions over plans for a concrete skatepark have accelerated now that BMX Freestyle has become an Olympic discipline.
Across Belgium, the Bicycle Route Network represents more than 48,763km of interconnected cycle paths and 20,638 routes. Proud to be part of the network, Heusden-Zolder actively works to integrate the national network into efforts to promote the region. With a proud history of coal mining in the municipality, the “Mining Route” highlights the coal mining history of the region, passing old mine buildings and sites. Over 80% of these routes are car-free.