Belgium gets revamped road code in 2025 with bunch of new signs

Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) has presented the new code of public roads. The current Belgian road code was about half a century old and outdated in some areas, hence the need for an update in the now rapidly changing road traffic in which there is, for example, 80% more cycling, said the minister.

The new road code, with new road signs and thus new traffic rules, will enter into force at the end of 2025 and aims primarily to protect the safety of vulnerable road users better, while it also wants to emphasize sustainability in a certain way.

A fairer place for everyone on public roads

From now on, we will no longer talk about a highway code but about a code for public roads. These new rules, worked on for nearly 20 years by the three regions (Flanders, Wallonia, and the Brussels-Capital Region), are built around five pillars to give everyone a fairer place on the public roads and maximize the safety of each road user.

Or, to put it another way, the car or the motorist is no longer ‘king of the road’ and consequently can no longer claim a monopoly. But what are the primary new interventions?

Protection of pedestrians

From now on, when parking two-wheelers on sidewalks, pedestrians must have at least 1,5 meters of clearance. In places with a narrow sidewalk, this could mean a ban on placing multiple bicycles against a facade.

Also, diagonal crossing, also called scramble crossing or X-crossing, and fiercely established in Tokyo, will be allowed for cyclists and pedestrians if the “square green for pedestrians/cyclists” traffic sign is present.

Whether on or off the roadway, the distance between a moving vehicle and a pedestrian will always have to be at least 1 meter and 1,5 meters outside built-up areas (this rule existed already for cyclists).

Pedestrians moving in groups in the evening or at night will have to make themselves “visible” by either using lights (one at the front and one at the back of the group), or each group member must be wearing a fluorescent vest.

Cyclists are allowed more.

Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is now possible for children up to age 11 (compared to nine). The size of a group of cyclists is also changing: soon, you will be allowed to ride on the road in a group of ten people, whereas until now, the limit was 15. The maximum will be 100 instead of 150.

Some cyclists may also ride on the road instead of the bike lane, depending on traffic signs in specific locations. If there is no safe other option, you may ride on the sidewalk.

When a specific (new) traffic sign is present, bicyclists may drive through the red or orange traffic light to turn left, right, or straight, provided they follow the right-of-way rules. Cyclists (and two-wheelers) will also be allowed to pass slow-moving rows of vehicles. Parking and standing still with bicycles or e-scooters will be prohibited on blind sidewalks and in places reserved for people with disabilities.

Changes for speed pedelecs and motorcyclists

Speed pedelecs may also ride in pedestrian zones and play streets, but they must keep on walking space and respect other road users.

In general, the same rules apply to users of speed bikes as to cyclists, with a few exceptions. For example, they are not allowed to ride on the part of the public road that pedestrians and cyclists must use. Also, in zones with a 50 km/hour speed limit, they are not required to ride on the bicycle path or on that part of the public road that is mandatory for pedestrians and cyclists.

Type B motorbikes will be required to ride on the roadway, even if they do not reach 50 km/hour and, therefore, not on the bicycle path. In one-way traffic, they can only use the right half of the roadway.

Motorcyclists may no longer park their motorcycles perpendicularly. Still, they must do so in line with the roadway, which will undoubtedly impact busy city centers with so-called fixed motorcycle parking areas. The ban on overtaking for cars now also applies to motorcycles.

No more alternate parking

For car users, semi-monthly alternate parking comes to an end. Adult passengers can also be penalized if they do not wear seat belts, whereas previously, only the driver was.

Using the four turn signals will be mandatory in case of a breakdown or accident. Furthermore, the parking ban is extended to prohibit stopping in specific bicycle lanes, bus lanes, and parking spaces for people with disabilities.

New traffic signs

In terms of diversity and inclusion, there will be gender-neutral traffic signs. There will also be eight new danger signs, warning of soft roadside, black ice or snow, fog, traffic jams, accidents, track formation, and sinking bollards.

For cargo bikes and part-propelled vehicles, new symbols are also being launched. Finally, several signs are also being redesigned.

The State Council must now approve the public road code. It will then be published in the Belgian Official Gazette in the spring of next year, after which the new rules should take effect in the fall of 2025. The reform will also bring changes to police departments and driving test centers.

 

Not one but four highway codes

Traffic Institute Vias is moderately positive about the renewed road code. It is structurally better than the previous one, says the institute, although it remains not evident that the average road user knows all the rules well and applies them correctly. In other words, Vias missed simplifying the Highway Code, as the institute requested in 2015.

The far-reaching regionalization also means there are now four highway codes in Belgium. The regional codes contain primarily technical rules, such as paid parking or speed limits on all roads except highways. “This does not make it easy for citizens moving around in different parts of the country to know still exactly what is expected of them,” says Vias, which underlines that there are also overlaps between the federal and regional codes.

Vias is, therefore, moderately positive about the new public road code. Instead, the traffic institute favors the German system, where a single road code is chosen for the entire territory across the 17 federal states.

Vulnerable road user versus automobilist

In turn, other traffic experts lament that there is no mention of speed reduction and the increasing number of heavy vehicles in traffic. And that, no matter how you look at it, the vulnerable road user remains saddled with a sense of responsibility, for example, the use of a fluorescent vest, while in most cases he, she, or x remains defenseless against a motorized vehicle whose number are only increasing instead of to decrease.

Motorists’ associations are also reacting moderately to the new highway code precisely because, according to them, the car has increasingly become ‘vehicula non grata’ on the road network, and cyclists and pedestrians are allowed more. At the same time, more restrictions are imposed on motorists and motorcyclists (LEZ, 30 km/h, etc.).

Umbrella organization Touring fears that the future right for cyclists to ride through the red light to go left, right, or straight will cause more conflicts with motorists. It also raises the question of the role of the Highway Code. “While the intention to make it more inclusive, by giving greater space to pedestrians and cyclists, is laudable, the role of the Highway Code is above all to ensure the safety and fluidity of all users, not to support sustainable mobility.”

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