A man has been hospitalised after a traffic pole in Brussels city centre pierced his car, resulting in life-threatening injuries.
Following the implementation of Brussels' new circulation plan, the centre of the city is largely free from cars. But increased mobility for cyclists and pedestrians comes at a price for motorists, particularly for Marnix Decuyper whose car was pierced by one of the new traffic poles.
Decuyper was driving on the Rue de la Grande Ile towards Place Fontainas when a retractable pole, which is part of the new circulation plan, suddenly rose from the ground and pierced his car’s engine. He is currently in hospital with several injuries.
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“I am a real estate expert and pass by Brussels every week,” Decuyper said. “I know the area and have never had any problems, but when I was following the car in front of me yesterday, I suddenly felt a huge bang.”
Decuyper said he hadn’t noticed there was a pole. “It must have come up at an enormous speed, because the sensors of my car did not go off.”
The impact caused the airbags of his car to go off, resulting in various injuries for Decuyper. “My arms are burned, my leg is open with cuts, my glasses are broken and my chest is crushed.”
Despite suffering several injuries, Decuyper initially declined to get in an ambulance. However, he became unwell after the incident and is currently in a hospital in Aalst.
The retractable pole in question has recently been installed at Rue de la Grande Ile 78, where only residents are allowed to drive since the new circulation plan came into action. According to the City of Brussels, this is not a case of a technical defect.
“That car was not allowed to go there. Plenty of signs clearly indicate that cars can no longer pass there,” said François Descamps, spokesman for Alderman for Mobility and Public Works Bart Dhondt.
“The sign in question states that there is a tolerance period until 1 October for people who get lost in the new circulation plan, but that does not mean that people can just drive around without authorisation,” said Descamps.
Decuyper claims that the new traffic system is confusing, as the signs warning of the pole suggest it will only go into effect in October. “Police also told me to take a photo of the signs as they suggest that the pole will not go into effect until 1 October."
The police say that they have no say in the signage of the new traffic plan. That is the responsibility of the City of Brussels.
The pole is designed to be lowered only for one car at a time, before rising immediately after. “(Decuyper) probably drove too close to the car in front of him, so the pole did not have time to come up again and ended up under his car,” explained Robin De Becker of the Brussels Capital Ixelles Police Zone Communication Unit.
Local CCTV footage shows that Decuyper did indeed notice that the pole was down and followed the car in front of him. “But every time a driver passes that pole, it has to come up all the way again."
As Decuyper’s vehicle is a company car, insurance will cover the damage. Nevertheless, he approached a lawyer. “This is life-threatening. It’s unbelievable that a pole can pierce the engine.”
People who saw the accident happen immediately came to Decuyper’s aid. “Someone came to get me out of the car, someone else brought water and several people expressed their dissatisfaction with the new circulation plan and the approach to the city,” said Decuyper.