Traffic regulations: impunity for cyclists?
The number of fines issued for cyclists is very small compared to the number of bicycles on Belgian roads. In Wallonia, it’s nearly null. Just as any other road users, cyclists don’t always comply with the traffic regulations but traffic in the city and their lack of number plates makes them difficult to identify or catch.
Any driver or public transport passenger in Brussels has seen a cyclist crossing a red light when there wasn’t any traffic. Although some signalling allows them that particular pass, bicycle users aren’t above the law. Judging by the number of fines issued for them, the law isn’t onto them either.
36 fines in Wallonia
Numbers disclosed by Home Affairs Minister, Jan Jambon (N-VA), to answer Gauthier Calomne (MR) prove that a cyclist getting a traffic violation ticket is a rare thing. In total for the whole of 2017, the police issued 9.449 fines to cyclists, 437 in Brussels, 6.959 in Flanders and… 36 in Wallonia! For red light crossing alone, there were 363 fines issued in Brussels, 1.935 in Flanders and only 22 in Wallonia.
This proves – if proof was needed – the more important cultural landscape of bicycles in the north of the country. “To find a cyclist crossing a red line in Charleroi, you can always try to look. I never see anyone on a bicycle in the city except two colleagues and the Prosecutor”, explains the Charleroi Police department spokesperson. On that note, Flemish Mobility Minister, Ben Weyts (N-VA), wants to allow cyclists to cross the lights in the new traffic regulations.
‘Difficult to catch’
“Bicycles don’t have any number plates and to fine their users the police has to stop them and ask for their ID. In the city, they have to find their way between cars and it’s not their priority”, explains VIAS spokesperson, Benoît Godart. “In Brussels we often see cyclists crossing the lights or going through right priority without stopping. It’s dangerous for them.”
In Brussels, the number of cyclists is increasing and the police is changing it’s methods accordingly. “We’ve got a bicycle force of fifteen police officers”, explains Montgomery police zone chief, Michaël Jonniaux, “in case of traffic violation, we intervene but it can be difficult to intercept cyclists in traffic, especially if our police officers are in a car.”
‘Fines should be less expensive for cyclists’
Although the Police considers every road user equal, pro-cyclists association Gracq wants bicycle users to pay less. “Every road user commits traffic violations and cyclists aren’t more virtuous than others”, explains Luc Goffinet from Gracq, “but it’s more visible for cyclists because they can’t hide.
When a cyclist is on the phone while riding, he can only fall down and hurt himself. If he doesn’t give way, he might be topped over whereas a car causes more damage. The amount fined isn’t in proportion with the risk that cyclists cause.”
More worryingly, Luc Goffinet isn’t against the red light crossing. For him “it allows the cyclist to leave the crossing before cars and it gives a sense of safety”, even though it’s a traffic violation and the cyclists puts himself in harm’s way.