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First results study on COVID-19 and mobility for Belgium

  • June 2, 2020

To gain insight into the impact of the corona measures on mobility behavior in Belgium, the MOBI research group of the VUB conducted research into travel behavior. "The results show that especially the bicycle and the electric bicycle is gaining popularity. The bis loser is public transport," says researcher Alice De Séjournet.


  • Three quarters of those surveyed did not commute during the lockdown
  • 40% said they would not do that after the measures will be relaxed, especially since teleworking is mandatory or possible within the company
  • 55% of people who do commute again said they would do it as often as before the lockdown, 40% of them would commute less often
  • For commuters, car usage remains at the same leve as before. In particular, walking (19%) and cycling (13%) are increasing in modal share, at the expense of the use of public transport, and it is striking that electric cycling is becoming more popular.
  • Respondents indicated that they would use less public transport, ranging from metro (-39%) to train (-12%)
  • 65% of respondents said they would go out during lockdown with the sole objective of actively moving, and 52% of respondents said they would go out more after easing the measures than they did before

Mobility behavior findings voor shopping purposes

  • 10% of respondents ordered prepared meals for delivery or collection for the first time
  • 10% did online shopping for the first time
  • 25% did more online shopping than usual
  • 65% said they went to the store less than usual
  • It is also indicated for non-food that people will go to the store less after the measures and order more online for home delivery.
  • When opening the catering industry, 20% of respondents will go out to eat more than before and one out of three will do so less

What about public transport?

The survey also examined the (re)use of public transport. "Public transport is clearly the big loser. This trend can also be observed abroad, with a decline to 40% of previous capacities being expected. In the results of our survey, it is striking that most users consider it important to know the occupancy of public transport. It turns out to be the most convincing measure to get users to step back, even more than wearing mouth masks. Public transport companies could therefore recoup some of their customers by providing this information," said Prof. Lieselot Vanhaverbeke, coordinator of the survey.

The future

Prof. Cathy Macharis, co-director of MOBI: "This crisis can become an opportunity towards a more sustainable mobility system. Three quarters of the respondents also indicate that this crisis is a good opportunity to change the policy on mobility and public space. 60% of the respondents agree to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists at the expense of cars, 25% are explicitly against this. 50% also support closing school environments for cars before and after school, while 1 out of 3 oppose this. Half of the respondents are convinced that a more sustainable mobility system will help to achieve the global climate goals."

The responses of 614 respondents were analyzed, with a good representation of all age groups and an overrepresentation of highly educated people. The study was conducted in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia.

Discover all the results for Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia here.