Design and Build Contraflow cycling in Brussels

  1. Plan
  2. Design and Build
  3. Sell
  4. Evaluate

From 0 to 404 km of contraflow cycling

A street with contraflow cycling and cycle friendly traffic calming as a part of regional route “B” in Brussels.

In Belgium Royal and Ministerial Decrees of 18 December 2002 obliged the highway administration to authorise two-way cycling on most one-way streets, depending on the width of the carriageway:

  • Below 2.6 m – contraflow cycling prohibited;
  • 2.6 – 3.0 m – contraflow cycling authorised;
  • 3.0 m and more – contraflow cycling compulsory.

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).

Road safety

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.

New ideas

Contraflow cycling with alternating direction in a historical tunnel on Rue Gray in Brussels.

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.