Coronavirus: Ghent mulls wider cycle lanes amid drop in car traffic
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    Coronavirus: Ghent mulls wider cycle lanes amid drop in car traffic

    Amid a rise in cycling traffic during the coronavirus lockdown, the city of Ghent is considering widening bike lanes to ensure social distancing guidelines can be respected. © Belga

    Officials in Ghent are considering enlarging cycling lanes to facilitate social distancing as cyclists and pedestrians replace reduced vehicle traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    The proposal to widen the spaces for the circulation of non-motorised traffic in the city was made by Groen MP Sara Matthieu, who said it was a “logical” choice as mobility habits changed under the nationwide lockdown.

    “We notice that many more people are cycling or walking, [usage] proportions are no longer the same, which jeopardizes safety on bicycle and pedestrian lanes,” Matthieu said. “Crucial for safety, but also logical with so little car traffic,” she wrote on social media.

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    The green party MP said the proposal was based on a similar situation in New York City, where authorities reported a surge in cycling as residents sought to avoid crowded public transportation.

    On Tuesday, Matthieu took to Twitter to say that her proposal had been accepted by the local mobility councillor, Filip Watteeuw.

    Watteeuw said the potential extension of the nationwide lockdown made the move necessary, as public spaces were currently not fitted to provide the necessary space to comply with measures aimed at stemming the spread of the new coronavirus.

    “Social distancing is difficult for pedestrians and cyclists in the city, streets and squares are not designed to give them space,” Watteeuw tweeted. “Sunny days and extended corona measures make this necessary.”

    According to VRT, city officials will select streets would qualify for the measure, with residents on Twitter already pointing out areas where car lanes could be narrowed.

    Belgium’s National Security Council is set to convene on Wednesday afternoon to review changes or a potential extension to the lockdown, currently set to last until 19 April.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times