Ghent mobility plan comes into force with little incident

Summary

Ghent’s new circulation plan has survived its first real test, with a morning rush hour that passed off without incidents

'Historic day'

The new, highly contested traffic plan for Ghent came into force on Monday with no sign of the chaos predicted: no accidents and no noteworthy traffic jams. However both supporters and critics agreed that the real test for the mobility plan, which splits the city centre into six traffic zones, is still to come.

“I think I’m not exaggerating when I say that we stand here in the early morning of a historic day for the city,” said mayor Daniël Termont on a visit to the temporary command post set up to monitor traffic as the plan gets under way.

In concrete terms, the only delays were caused at one location by the manoeuvres of a lorry, and at another by the timing of traffic lights – something city authorities said could be adjusted. The morning rush hour passed off without incident. On the Verloren Kost, a street which has now become car-free, members of the local cyclists’ union handed out flowers.

“The last two and a half years has been an unbelievably intense period,” said Filip Watteeuw, councillor in charge of mobility. “Hundreds of people took part in the development of the circulation plan. The city will now be safer and more agreeable to live in, and that’s something we all want.” The city council, he said, would not hesitate to make changes where necessary.

For opposition leader Elke Sleurs (N-VA), however, it is too soon to rejoice. “We’re in the middle of the Easter vacation,” she pointed out. “A lot of people are on holiday, there are fewer people at work, and the schools are closed.” The real test, she said, would come on April 18, when children go back to school and parents to work.

Photo courtesy Stad Gent

Traffic in Flanders

Thousands of commuters and foreigners pass through Brussels and Flanders each day, and the two regions have suffered from heavily congested traffic and long and frequent traffic jams for years – with no end seemingly in sight.
Record - According to the 2013 report from traffic information platform Inrix, Brussels and Antwerp have the most traffic congestion of any city in Europe and North America.
Calendar - October is the worst month of the year for traffic jams.
Causes - Year after year, heavy snowfall and railway strikes lead to monster traffic jams. Heavy congestion, infrastructure works and multi-lane accidents cause the more ordinary daily tailbacks.
1 285

largest area covered in traffic ever recorded in Belgium in kilometres

70

time Antwerp drivers spend in gridlock per year in hours

10 000

traffic diversions in Flanders per year