Belgium/Pavement markings to encourage cyclists to keep to a walking pace on busy streets in the center of Louvain-la-Neuve

Published on 18/04/2024 | La rédaction


How can we improve cohabitation between cyclists and pedestrians in the center of Louvain-la-Neuve? The city wasn't designed with bicycles in mind, but there are a lot of them, not just during the 24-hour period. And even if the situation is far from chaotic, their presence is not always well-received, especially when they're riding fast on the busiest streets.

"We're seeing two changes," says Hadelin de Beer, alderman for mobility. Firstly, there are more bicycles, and there are also more people. Secondly, bikes are going much faster, which is stressful for pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable. Either you've got a small child who can't walk straight and you're afraid he'll get caught. Or you're an older person, with less acuity, you feel less agile, you're afraid of falling and breaking something if you're grazed. So the stress is there, and it sometimes leads to certain behaviours such as 'I'm not going out anymore', which is quite regrettable and damaging. But as far as I'm concerned, there's no doubt about it: the weak user has priority, so pedestrians have priority and should be able to get out without fear."

Keeping up with the crowd

The solution? Encourage cyclists to take alternative routes when streets are crowded. And if that's not possible, ask them to slow down, or even to ride at walking pace, as is the rule.

Thereare some streets, like Rue de l'Union Européenne, that are wide enough to separate the flows," continues the alderman. And there are some that aren't suitable for bikes when there are a lot of people, like the Grand-Rue and Rue Charlemagne. In Ghent, they've banned bicycles from certain streets at certain times. Here, we're not going to go in that direction to start with, we're simply going to raise awareness by marking the ground with stencils. And we're going to say 'Ride at walking pace'."

In Louvain-la-Neuve, bicycles are tolerated," points out Dimitri, a trainer with Pro Velo(the association recently opened a branch in Louvain-la-Neuve, editor's note). So if we're tolerated, we try to be nice. What I always say is to watch out for pedestrians, because they have priority. To coexist well, you first have to accept that others exist and not be dangerous in relation to others."

And if these recommendations aren't enough, occasional bans could one day be considered.

Athéna-Lauzelle, a future pedestrian-cyclist district

The cohabitation of cyclists and pedestrians is also one of the issues at stake in the Athéna-Lauzelle project, which is much talked about these days in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve. If this new district sees the light of day, it will be cyclist-pedestrian. Cars will be kept outside, and everything will be done to enable future residents to reach the center on foot or by bike.

But to do so, they'll have to pass through other neighborhoods that weren't specially designed for two-wheelers, and where cars have their place today too. Where will these bikes go? Won't there be more conflicts with other users, pedestrians and motorists? Won't the center of Louvain-la-Neuve be clogged with bicycles? This is a matter of concern for some residents of Lauzelle, for example. They fear that a large number of cyclists from the new district on the other side of the boulevard will pass in front of their homes every day.


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