Police fines for cyclist spark debate on bicycle parking laws

Police fines for cyclist spark debate on bicycle parking laws
Credit: Helen Lyons/ The Brussels Times

On these sunny days, many of us have the urge to grab our bikes and head out to explore Belgium. But what happens when you get to your destination and want to wander about on foot to take in the sights? Locking your bicycle up is the first step, but surely nothing can go wrong after that…right?

Well, one cyclist found out the hard way that locking up your bike is not always a guarantee to avoid any issues. It turns out, that depends on where you choose to park it.

When returning to unlock his bike from a lamppost in the centre of Brussels, the cyclist was stopped by a police officer who explained to him that it was forbidden to attach his bicycle to lampposts and that it had to be attached to the specifically constructed poles provided for this purpose.

He was then told that he risked being fined – not once but twice; once for attaching a bicycle to a place that is not intended for this, and the other for damaging street architecture. Both fines would set back the cyclist €76.

Luckily the officer just issued a warning, but the cyclist was stunned to hear of these rules.

Is it illegal?

So, is it really illegal to lock your bike up against anything other than designated cycle poles? To answer the question, we must consult the sacrosanct Highway Code. Indeed, the bible of road safety has an answer for everything.

However, with its jargonistic references to various obscure sections and articles, in this case, the Highway Code does not give a clear answer. Thankfully Vias, the Belgian institute for road safety, is readily on hand to provide clarity.

“First, there is not an article that defines the place where a cyclist must tie his bike,” says Benoît Godart, a voice of reason at Vias. “That being said, section 23.3 says that you cannot interfere with pedestrians or make their progress dangerous. By this it means that if you park your bike in the middle of the sidewalk, you are in violation because the risk exists. In this case, it is a second-degree offence. A police officer would be entitled to send you a fine set at 116 euros. ”

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As for the argument put forward by the police officer that the cyclist in Brussels could have been fined for damaging street architecture, Benoît Godart refutes this idea as being absurd: “Frankly I do not understand! The police officer must have been in a bad mood. What is certain is that there is not a section of the Highway Traffic Act that prevents people from attaching their bicycles to a pole. And talking about the degradation of street architecture is really far-fetched.”

The Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone was equally surprised by the story of the Brussels cyclist. “The only thing we ask is for people to use everything specifically constructed for parking their bikes,” a police spokesperson said.

“But indeed, this is not always possible. All we are asking for is to leave crossings free for pedestrians. So, it is not forbidden to attach a bike to a pole. It’s as simple as that. ”

Suffice to say that in order not to receive a fine for illegal parking, cyclists should show common sense and therefore good citizenship by not hindering the traffic of other road users.


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