The City of Brussels is considering tightening the rules for cyclists in the pedestrian zone. Following the example of Ghent and Leuven, cycling would no longer be allowed in certain parts at busy times. The plans are not yet concrete, but the cabinet of Mobility Alderman Bart Dhondt (Green) indicates that it is investigating possible options. “We notice that older pedestrians feel increasingly unsafe due to reckless cycling behavior.”
The number of cyclists in Brussels is clearly on the rise. Last week, Brussels Mobility talked about a record number. The regional authority’s counting poles then registered the ten millionth bicycle movement, an increase of half a million compared to 2022. This increase also causes problems in certain parts of the city, especially in the pedestrian zones in the center.
Feeling of insecurity
“We notice that the pedestrian zone at the Beurs is a great success,” says Bart Dhondt (Green), Brussels Alderman for Mobility. “It really comes to blows at certain times. A good thing, but that crowds can lead to conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. Reckless cycling behavior, or people with a fast, electric bicycle, regularly create a feeling of insecurity among the elderly or small children.”
Dhondt sees the number of complaints about reckless cyclists increasing, especially among the older population. “We want the pedestrian zone to be safe and accessible to everyone. That is why we are looking at what measures we can take to ensure that it remains that way.”
Brussels is not the first city in our country to consider stricter regulations. In Leuven, for example, cycling is not allowed in shopping and walking streets such as Muntstraat and Boekhandelstraat. And this is also the case in Ghent. In the busiest shopping, walking and catering streets, only pedestrians are allowed between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Abroad, Lille recently announced restrictive measures for cyclists in pedestrian zones.
Currently, the rule in the Brussels pedestrian zone is that cyclists must adjust their speed to the walking pace. “But we notice that this is not always observed,” Dhondt continues. “Enforcing it is also not easy. We can hardly put police officers everywhere, they have other priorities. That is why we try to provide a safer alternative to the current regulations within the pedestrian zone, both for pedestrians and cyclists.”
According to Dhondt, consideration is being given to banning bicycles in specific zones at busy times, just like in Ghent. Where exactly is currently being investigated. “The pedestrian zone is therefore very large, it extends from Central Station to the Stock Exchange, and Sint-Katelijnestraat was recently added. Determining where the bicycle-free zones would be located requires some thought. The times must also be determined. “For example, in the morning we see few problems between pedestrians and cyclists in the pedestrian zone. It is only later in the day that conflicts occur.”
Alternative routes for cyclists are also being investigated. For example, they could use Lakensestraat for travel, to avoid the crowds in the pedestrian zone at busy times. Dhondt: “The Lakensetstraat will become a bicycle street. Once the works are completely completed, we can evaluate whether this is a comfortable and safe alternative, or whether additional measures may be necessary.”
It is still unclear when the first measures will be implemented.