A 70 km/hour speed limit will now apply on the middle or central lane on roads in Wallonia with markings for bicycle paths on both sides. So, reports Sudinfo and La Libre Belgique. The Walloon government’s decree, which sets the speed limit, was published in the Belgian Bulletin of Acts. The rule was already in force in Flanders and Brussels.
The middle lane, which has been in the Highway Code since October 2022, is a central carriageway with a lane for motorized traffic, demarcated by two side lanes for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, mopeds, and pedestrians.
They are not separate cycle lanes, clearly separated from traffic, but special zones marked by painted dotted lines or a specific color. The width of the middle lane does not allow two vehicles to cross each other.
They may use the side lanes when crossing without endangering pedestrians and cyclists. The speed limit is now set at 70 km/hour, unless a C43 sign indicates a different limit, such as 50 km/hour or 30 km/hour.
However, central lanes are not common in Wallonia. SPW-Mobility recommends their use in areas with low traffic density (less than 3 000 vehicles per day) or sparsely built-up areas. Places should also be avoided where visibility is not optimal, for example, because of relief or curves.
Not widely introduced
The Walloon civil service also does not think the system should be widely introduced. “The most important thing is to provide appropriate cycling facilities depending on the context and configuration of the site. The central lane is an option that contributes to a range of solutions, and a case-by-case assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of development remains necessary,” SPW-Mobility says.
Research by Fietsberaad Vlaanderen shows that such a layout has no positive effects on road safety when cycling in mixed traffic, with cyclists moving closer to the edge of the road and motorists moving faster and passing closer to cyclists.
Central lanes are generally seen as a ‘quick win’ on roads with little cycling infrastructure and little room to extend the lane with cycle lanes.