In effect, the Brussels Capital Region over a relatively short period authorised contraflow cycling on 404 km of one-way streets. Many of them became parts of the emerging regional cycle network – main routes connecting different districts of Brussels and reaching to the suburbs. Together with other measures it contributed to more than a three-fold increase between 2002 and 2011 in cycle traffic and nearly 6-fold increase between 2002 and 2016 (cycle traffic data from: Observatoire du velo en region de Bruxelles Capitale).
The impact on road safety was evaluated in-depth by the Belgian Road Safety Institute. The study concluded that there are proportionally no more accidents involving a cyclist travelling against the traffic than with the traffic; in fact, there are slightly fewer. The study also found that the risk of a cyclist being involved in an accident is four times greater per km travelled on the primary network than in contraflow cycling on a local street. Therefore, creating an alternative to cycling on the main roads, by authorising contraflow cycling on parallel local streets, can be a measure to improve safety.
Contraflow cycling with alternating direction of traffic was introduced in 2018 in a historical tunnel on Rue Gray, a part of the “MM” regional cycling route. Because of a narrow carriageway, an alternating direction of traffic, regulated by traffic lights, was introduced for cars. However, even though there is no space for a second car, a bicycle will fit, therefore, a sign allowing the cyclists to run the red light was added under traffic signals. While the apparent signage comes from signalised crossings, the underlying principle is characteristic of contraflow traffic.
Safety aspects of contraflow cycling
Detailed analysis of accidents involving cyclists on cyclist contraflows in the Brussels-Capital Region (2008, 2009 and 2010). Belgian Road Safety Institute, March 2014.