The Sint-Vincentius hospital in Antwerp has denied being behind a decision regarding a nearby road junction that on Tuesday led to a fatal accident involving two children.
The crossing had been part of a test involving switching to a conflict-free configuration where all traffic is on a red light while pedestrians are allowed to cross. At the majority of light-controlled crossings in Belgium, traffic on cross streets is allowed to proceed even when pedestrians on the perpendicular street have a green light.
Conflict-free crossings have the overwhelming support of traffic analysts and safety experts, and the Flemish government has made the change a platform of its governing policy for this term.
On Tuesday this past week, two children aged nine and 18 months were crossing perfectly correctly on the Lange Leemstraat in the Jewish quarter of Antwerp when they were hit by a truck turning left out of the Sint-Vincentiusstraat. The two children died at the scene and the truck driver was hospitalised for shock.
It later emerged that the junction had been part of an experiment on switching to conflict-free crossing between April and July, but the decision had been taken to revert back by the office of Koen Kennis (N-VA), city councillor for mobility.
Kennis defended the decision on grounds of congestion.
“There was a lot of traffic jams on the Lange Leemstraat, not only for cars, but also for cyclists and the tram. And that had an impact on the accessibility of the Sint-Vincentius Hospital. There was also a very chaotic alternation at the intersection. Then what do you get? Cyclists try to navigate between cars and so on.”
However hospital, situated only metres from the junction, has now denied even being consulted about the traffic situation.
Speaking on VRT radio, a representative of the hospital management said they had never been consulted about the change, and furthermore had experienced no issues while the test period with a conflict-free crossing was going on. The ambulance access which was allegedly a problem cited by Kennis was unknown to the hospital, the spokesperson said, as there are alternative routes.
“A councillor for mobility lying about why he didn't keep an intersection free of conflict after two fatalities. Can he still function? Not as far as I'm concerned," said Groen leader in Antwerp council Imade Annouri on Twitter. Groen has called for Kennis to resign.