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Avenue Louise's new bicycle street still dominated by cars

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Illustration shows the first cycling road to be created along the Louise Avenue, in Ixelles/Elsene, in Brussels, Monday 22 April 2013. (BELGA PHOTO VIRGINIE LEFOUR)
06:03 23/09/2021

The new bicycle street on Avenue Louise has been open for a month now, but traffic signs indicating that bikes have priority have yet to be installed and cars are still dominating the lane.

"Transit traffic is particularly problematic,” said Florine Cuignet of cyclists' union GRACQ. “The amount of traffic has to be drastically reduced to make the bicycle street a success."

The cycle lane starts at Rue de la Bonté when the grey road surface turns into the recognisable ochre-yellow asphalt layer that indicates cycling infrastructure. Despite opening at the end of August, there is currently no traffic sign at its entrance to inform drivers that their vehicles must give priority to cyclists. The first sign that indicates this comes some 10 metres further.

"It is true that the signs are only partially placed on the route," said Inge Paemen of Brussels Mobility. "Due to a change in the highway code in early August, other road signs had to be ordered."

"We expect the new signage in the first weekend of October," a spokesperson for Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt added.

Whether the new signage will lead to an improvement of the situation remains to be seen. Currently, cars continue to use and block the cycle street in large numbers. "There are two to three times more cars using the lane than a bicycle street allows," said GRACQ’s Florine Cuignet. The ratio between the volume of cyclists and the volume of cars is therefore out of balance, which limits the usability of the bicycle street.

"The amount of traffic must be drastically reduced," adds Lieselotte Gevens of the Dutch-speaking Fietserbond cyclists association, who supports the Brussels government’s plan to build cycling roads along the entire length of Avenue Louise to solve the traffic issues.

But Florine Cuignet of GRACQ is less optimistic that the plan will solve the problem of cars using the cycle lanes. "The construction of the bicycle streets in the Avenue Louise is a complex project," she said. According to her, the infrastructure also needs to be adapted. She cites the bicycle streets on the Inner Ring as an example. "On Avenue des Arts, car traffic in the bicycle streets is severely restricted thanks to, among other things, traffic-filtering poles."

As far as the poles are concerned, "they will also be on Avenue Louise," according to the spokesperson for Brussels Mobility, "but the placement is subject to an approved building permit that takes one to two years. We have chosen to renew the asphalting in advance because we did not need a permit for this."

Pascal Smet, state secretary in charge of urban planning, said an application for a building permit has yet to be submitted. "It is risky to introduce ill-considered bicycle streets by placing a road sign and adjusting the colour of the asphalt without making infrastructural interventions," he said.

Despite the problems with the latest cycle street, the city will go ahead with building the next one later this week. "There will be a new ochre-yellow asphalt layer between Rue de la Vallée and Place Stéphanie," said Inge Paemen of Brussels Mobility. "The work will start in phases from the weekend of 25 September. The first will be the strip between the Rue de la Vallée and Rue Vilain XIIII."

Written by Nick Amies



As usual, the planning and execution is done by well-intentioned people who have limited technical ability concerning the decisions they are making. Also, we seem to be hearing only from the pro-bicycle crusaders. They all seem all to be young(ish), fit (no knee issues, have no back issues, and no sight issues). They also give the impression that educating bike riders to respect the traffic laws (respecting red light, respecting pedestrian crossings, not crossing white lines, no riding on the sidewalk, wearing helmets, etc) is not an issue.

Sep 30, 2021 12:15