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Tensions rise between drivers and cyclists in Brussels

19:19 10/09/2020

With the near-deserted streets of lockdown Brussels a distant memory, increased traffic as people go back to work and school has exacerbated traditional friction between cars and bicycles.

Worse, the last few days saw several reports of aggressiveness towards cyclists announced on social media: “This weekend, four cyclists have been physically attacked by car drivers… hatred towards people on a bike and especially women is worrying,” one Facebook post said.

The Covid-19 crisis resulted in a huge increase in cyclists. Bruzz reported 75% more of them on the streets the first week of September, compared to the same period in 2019. In parallel, initiatives to promote cycling in Brussels including road closures, increased space for parking and a wealth of new cycle lanes have mushroomed.

The sea change from the old "car is king" days has clearly not pleased all road users, who have set up Facebook groups to voice their concern. The biggest, “L’automobiliste en a marre’ [Drivers are fed up]” numbers 16,500 members.

“The message we want to make clear is that car and motorbike drivers pay enormous taxes,” said the group’s creator Lucien Becker. He claims measures to boost take-up of cycling have resulted in a situation where the car driver is very unfairly treated. And he judges some new developments, like cutting speed limits [the whole of Brussels will be a 30kph zone from 2021], as “absurd”.

He regrets the angry messages posted on his Facebook group, emphasising the rules state they should be “kind, courteous and non-violent”. But he admits that posts – a recent one proclaiming “The only good cyclist is a dead one” - are “relatively uncontrollable”. This week, one cyclist’s post welcoming a new cycle lane, shared on the group, received a flood of violent insults, even accusations that the cyclist was collaborating with political parties.

Aurélie Willems, secretary general of Gracq, the association representing daily cyclists, explains “there is a certain frustration and irritation. We are coming out of the ‘all about the car’ model. This results in conflicts between different road users in many towns in transition.”

But despite the problems, she remains positive: “Normally, the next stage is an adaptation to the new town and its new methods of transport, leading to a general calming down of the situation.”

Written by Liz Newmark

Comments

danbruylandt

And noooooobody appears to have noticed that most cyclists do just what they bloody well like in traffic.
They don't obey the rules (made up for their own safety), ride without lights or reflectors etc etc etc.
Quite a few drivers don't have much respect for the weak road user, but most weak road users have no respect whatsoever for the motorist.
And I'm speaking from personal experience!

Sep 14, 2020 11:46
Uli

@DANBRUYLANDT

Where do l start?
I have witnessed appalling disregard for safety and rules in Brussels traffic equally from all participants involved: pedastrians, cyclists, people on scooters, motorcyclists, car-, taxi- and truck drivers. Everyone!!! here behaves crazy in traffic. I have never seen so many traffic rule violations in all my life since before coming to Brussels. Brussels was the first time I had seen cars lying on their roofs in real life. Almost every car has dented sides - because people here either don't know the right before left rule or - 99% of the time - don't care or just think that might makes right. Many people apparently also don't know traffic signs and their meanings. Many traffic lights here have a sign for cyclists allowing them to ignore the red light: but there are still car drivers shaking angry fists at them when they do or cyclists stop and block others from passing.
I have seen cyclists driving on the sidewalk passing people dangerously close and not even ringing the bell to give a warning. Seen cyclists overtaking others on the right!
Pedastrians throwing themselves on the street without looking and almost being killed - only surviving thanks to the quick reflexes of the car driver.

I personally experienced the following: I was crossing the street at an official zebra stripes crossing. A car with four men inside stopped to let me pass - when I was in front of the car, the driver let it jump forward a few times to scare me and I almost fell. The men were laughing and when I took out my phone to photograph the license plate, they almost hit me with their car trying to escape and shouted the word "pute" at me. While on a bike, a man swerved from the opposite lane into mine to make me escape onto the green - I guess to remove all my doubt about wether or not he had a tiny "insert-appropriate-word-here".

I took to cycling during the start of the pandemic as I don't have a car and wanted to free up public transport for the people who really need it.
When I think of the blocked traffic on the main streets that lead through the tunnels, I cannot understand why anyone wants to waste an hour or more moving at a snails pace and why anyone would want cyclists to get in their cars and add yet more cars to these daily traffic jams. Also - on the main street through the tunnels, there is so much road rage with honking and swearing between the car drivers - and on those streets there are no cyclists involved. It is an eternal traffic jam - aided by the way, by crossing cars who don't keep intersections clear, so they always block traffic that then can't move even though they have a green light.
Trams are blocked by cars that have no place on the checkered path on the rails at intersections. I am always surprised how this happens - even my family visiting by car and thus being strangers to Brussels traffic - never once got caught in this and understood that you had to keep the checkered section clear.
Don't get me started on the e-scooters left standing everywhere blocking sidewalks, parking spaces, left there by idiots who care about no one but themselves.
Half a year ago an entire section of traffic lights on the main intersection where I live, was totally flattened by a driver with a 500HP car that he lost control over during an illegal street race in the early morning hours.

I don't know what's in the water here but it can't be good...

Oct 11, 2020 16:48