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02 May 2017

Two Wheels on the Ground

Isabelle Bulthez is the director of the association Pro Velo. Its mission is to facilitate and reinforce the transition towards cycling through a positive, practical and convivial approach

At the helm of one of the country’s largest cyclist organisations, Isabelle Bulthez does not hide her past: she once had a company car – OMG! At the time she was a financial auditor in a private organisation. So the Pro Velo director is thus the epitome of this pragmatic relationship that we often have towards our mobility. ‘It was when I no longer had a company car that I started to question things. You always need a nudge to change behaviour. Before, I rode my bike when I had no other solution or when it was the fastest way to get somewhere.’ Hardly imagining that she would one day work for the organisation, she visited Pro Velo in the context of the ‘Bike Experience’ campaign that helps users get behind the handlebars. ‘That thoroughly convinced me and I have never stopped since then.’

Isabelle has been the Pro Velo director for the past two years. The association, with 76 employees in Wallonia and Brussels, in her opinion is completely evolving. The initial mission – to create a consultants office on bicycles – has evolved towards a broad range of services: sale or rental of bicycles and accessories, repairs, lessons in riding in traffic, events and “Cyclist Certificates’ in schools, ‘bike’ audits for business firms, studies, guided rides and so on. All these activities are developing in an economic context that is challenging for the not-for-profit which gets by partially on subsidies. ‘What makes me feel so enthusiastic about my everyday work is this team of 76 people who achieve all these projects. For two years now we have been developing strategic plans by pooling all our ideas. Few decisions are taken top-down. It’s quite a challenge!’

Pro Velo is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and is offering itself a new website for the fall, one that more clearly reflects the diversity of its services. It is also launching a big first: co-organising Bike Brussels, a urban bike fair from 15-18 September 2017. Pro Velo will be on hand to propose entertainment, activities, debates, new items to test. Here as well, the association wants to get non-cyclists or occasional riders more deeply interested in bikes. ‘In our communication, we try to never say “don’t drive” but instead “try bike riding”.’