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Cyclists in Brussels are now allowed to ignore red traffic lights.

Brussels Secretary of State for Road Safety, Bianca Debaets and Brussels Minister of Transport Pascal Smet installed new cyclist signs on Thursday morning which indicated that cyclists may continue straight or turn right at junctions even when the lights are amber or red.

The new signs, B22 and B23, have been put up at all junctions where this is safe for cyclists following a test phase.

“It is a provision which exists since 1990 in the Netherlands and which exists also in France and Germany,” Bianca Debaets told the Brussels Times.

Out of the 475 intersections in Brussels with traffic lights that are managed by Brussels Transport, 348 have been fitted with the signs, with 40 more yet to come.

It is the first region in the country to do so.

Also this week, the New York Department of Transportation also backed a bill allowing cyclists to go through red lights at some junctions.

At around 1500 intersections, cyclists would be able to follow pedestrian signals, giving them a head start before cars start moving.

They would still be required to give way to pedestrians.

 "As a bicyclist myself ... I know that the small head start over the traffic at LPI intersections will give me an added sense of security, knowing that surrounding vehicles will spot me," Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who is sponsoring the measure, told the New York Daily News.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

6 comments

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I love my bike [214 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

It's a pity that they don't use the small low level cycle traffic lights, as used in London; so that they don't get to bully their way through any pedestrians crossing. It would also be clearer for visitors as well, but what do I know?

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wycombewheeler [1243 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Surely they could learn from the UK where we put slow vulnerable cyclists in front of fast heavy, metal boxes and see how it pans out.

Nearly forgot the comma there and it sounded like a box of CDs which would be somewhat less scary.

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seiklmeikl [13 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Bianca Debaets is wrong in stating that such a rule does exist in Germany. We have a green arrow on some traffic light crossings for all vehicles, including bicycles, that's true (heired down from former GDR, where this was a popular measure). The federal minister for traffic has repeatedly refused proposals for a special bicycle related rule. The very last approach in this direction are plans in the newly formed coalition in Berlin to apply this rule as a test.

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Jitensha Oni [98 posts] 1 year ago
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wycombewheeler wrote:

Surely they could learn from the UK where we put slow vulnerable cyclists in front of fast heavy, metal boxes and see how it pans out.

no cyclists here yes :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db00rnYeogQ

 

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Man of Lard [341 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Every time I've been in Brussels over the last 20 years most traffic lights seemed to be optional for all traffic (except in the presence of the Rijkswacht/Gendarmerie/Police)... It's also one of few cities where a taxi ride has involved doing 130km/h up the wrong side of the road (Avenue Louise) with a wall of traffic headed straight for us which the taxi-chef avoided by a near-two-wheeled right down a side street...

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OldRidgeback [2847 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Man of Lard wrote:

Every time I've been in Brussels over the last 20 years most traffic lights seemed to be optional for all traffic (except in the presence of the Rijkswacht/Gendarmerie/Police)... It's also one of few cities where a taxi ride has involved doing 130km/h up the wrong side of the road (Avenue Louise) with a wall of traffic headed straight for us which the taxi-chef avoided by a near-two-wheeled right down a side street...

 

Belgium's rate of road crashes and people being killed or seriously injured on its roads is scarily high, shockingly so for a western European nation. The death rate from road crashes/head of population is twice that of the Netherlands over the border and about 1.5 times that of Germany and France on its other borders.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Until the 70s, you didn't even need a driving licence in the country so some older drivers have never taken a test. The roads are not in good order in the country and design is not as good as in neighbouring Holland for instance. Belgian roads are also heavily congested and research points to Brussels has having amongst the worst traffic congestion in Europe. Some Belgians say that the reason the crash rate is so high is because there are so many foreign drivers in transit through the country, but this ignores the fact that the Netherlands just next door has an equally large number of foreign vehicles driving through it. 

What is clear is that Belgium has lax enforcement of things like drink driving or phone use at the wheel and even when penalties are brought out for offences, they tend to be minimal. Some years ago for instance a British pedestrian was knocked down and killed by a drink driver in Brussels. The driver was banned for two weeks. I don't think the fine was particularly high either. It brings into perspective the penalties for driving offences in the UK.

While Belgium has a long history of sporting successes in cycling, it's not a country I've ever cycled in, and having seen how people drive in Brussels, I feel safer on two wheels in London by comparison.