The Brussels Bike Hundred

100 portraits, stories and bicycles

We’re teaming up with Bike for Brussels to put together a 100-strong selection of local heroes shaping the city each in their own way. From designers and DJs to performers and publishers, these are the creatives riding Brussels forward.

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert, 1989

photographer

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I grew up in Overijse, on the other side of the Sonian Forest, so Brussels has always been close. After my studies at Narafi, I moved to the capital to enjoy the good sides of the city life. Today, I’m a photographer based in Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis. I mainly work with architecture, design, portrait and documentary photography, as well as food photography. Under my own name, I regularly work for De Standaard Magazine, but I’m also part of the food photographer’s team at Studio Wauters, where we shoot national campaigns for big brands such as Delhaize and McDonalds. I am an avid trail runner and a guitarist as well, but I have so many hobbies that it’s hard to stay focused on all of them.

How has Brussels shaped you as an individual as well as your professional activities?

When I was 15, I switched from a boring secondary school in Overijse to Sint-Lukas in Schaerbeek. This opened my eyes on how education could be fun and interesting, but also changed my perception of our capital from being a big, strange place to an interesting, surprisingly mellow collection of different areas and characteristics. The diversity and liveliness of Brussels is energising. I definitely feel that getting in touch with people from different backgrounds and cultures broadens your mind. Living in Brussels, there’s a lot of different impulses that are bound to change the way you look at things, both artistically and personally.

List three things you like the most about Brussels.

  • Food: as a food photographer and someone who runs and cycles a lot, eating is a big part of my life. Luckily, there is amazing food everywhere in Brussels. I live in the centre of Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis and there’s a fresh products or food truck market nearly every day just at my doorstep. There are also new and exciting restaurants and food stores of all kinds opening every week.
  • Arts and music: I love Brussels’ huge arts scene, with incredible and established institutions such as BOZAR and Botanique and loads of galleries showcasing some incredible new artists. Being in several bands and starting out as a concert photographer, it’s no surprise that music takes up a lot of my time – and money as well. The city counts many amazing venues, with international bands coming through almost every week.
  • Green areas: running and biking in the centre certainly isn’t always fun. Luckily, Bois de La Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos is 5 km away from my house with the Sonian Forest just a bit further. It’s like a huge playground of connecting tracks, steep hills and fresh air, but also a place to train or relax. I ride through it on my way to work.

List three deciding factors that converted you to bicycle use.

  • I often work in Overijse and I used to take public transport. As soon as I found out that biking there takes up an equal amount of time, the choice was easily made. I arrive at work right awake, a bit sweaty but with a big smile on my face.
  • Living close to the small inner ring of Brussels, it’s no secret that the air is gross and smelly when all the cars are stuck in traffic. So to make my ecological footprint a bit smaller I try to bike, run and walk as much as I can.
  • I actually like cycling uphill and Brussels has a lot of those.

List three favourite bike routes in Brussels.

  • Chemin des Tumuli/Tumuliweg: this is my absolute number one. It’s a paved road that starts in Boitsfort/Bosvoorde and ends in Groenendaal, going straight through the Sonian forest. It is very well maintained and only accessible by bike or foot. It also has one really hard and long uphill: sweat session guaranteed.
  • The Promenade Verte/Groene Wandeling: this is a marked route of about 60 km connecting all the green patches that surround Brussels. Although it’s called the green walk, it’s also fully accessible by bike.
  • The canal: Brussels now has a pleasant cycling path next to the canal that brings you from Anderlecht to Vilvorde/Vilvoordee. You pass a couple of great bars such as De Walvis as well as new museums Mima and Kanal Pompidou.
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