How a Belgian city is cutting rush-hour traffic

The Belgian city of Ghent has reported a 12% reduction in rush-hour traffic, and a 25% increase in cyclists in the first year of its new traffic plan. The findings were reported on the second anniversary of the Ghent Circulation Plan coming into force, and coincided with T&E’s member organisations spending a day in the city before their annual general meeting in Brussels.

 

Growing numbers of vehicles in the historic centre of Ghent have forced the city authorities to regulate traffic in the heart of the city. Their traffic plan was aimed at unburdening the centre of through traffic, effectively under the motto ‘Whoever needs to be in the city will get there more easily.’ The plan also set out to ensure that both citizens and visitors get more space, and can move safely in a healthy environment. Among the concrete measures it has prompted are extending the pedestrian zone in the centre, changing the direction of traffic on some roads, and making more efficient use of the city’s two ring roads. The city is now divided into six sectors, which you can only reach via one ring road – and not by driving through the city.

The plan has been a great success, not just in reducing cars in the rush hour by 12%, but by reporting 40% less car traffic on the most important cycle routes so cyclists feel safer, and there have been fewer accidents. The number of cyclists has gone up by 25%, and public transport usage by 28%. Air quality in the city centre was reported to be 18% better than a year earlier when the plan was first enacted in April 2017.

As well as learning about the circulation plan, T&E’s delegates assembled in Ghent’s art museum for a series of workshops on various topics, including the ethics of electric vehicle battery production, taxes on aviation, pollution from luxury cruises, and how we get to zero emissions by 2050 in Europe’s capitals.