When you say Belgium, what do people think about? Of course, bikes! Its streets are full of these vehicles and even people who don’t live in this country permanently, use them. It’s important to know some rules so that you don’t get into trouble and save some money.
We are two international students, Kate from Russia and Carmen from Spain, and we both didn’t know how to ride the bike safely. A lot of people look at us strangely because we were riding on the narrow sidewalk. So, the rules that children know here since they were born, we didn’t know at all. We decided to ride around and show to other international students what different signs mean.
1. Can I be fined?
Yes! Belgium people, if you understood, have a lot of rules and restrictions. So, it’s important to follow these. Otherwise you have to pay: and pay a lot. Here are some examples.
If you’re driving and you pass an orange traffic light, you’d get a fine or € 116, and even more if you cross a red one: € 174 . crossing the ‘stop line’ might cost you a fine or € 473, and maybe, your life…
When you see a ‘stop’ sign, please stop. Or you’d have to pay € 116. Same price for ignoring a give-way sign. You always have to ride on the right side of the road – if there isn’t cycle track – or … guess what? € 58. Make sure your font and back lights work. Trust us: it is cheaper to fix them than to pay € 58 . Otherwise, police might take your bike.
The same when there is an event in town. Bicycles are tasks away by police if they are left on the street and you can also be fined.
2. What about riding drunk?
The answer is NO . Firstly, it’s dangerous. Secondly, police can insist on taking a breath test. And probably you will get a fine which depends on the blood alcohol concentration and presence of a place of residence in Belgium.
Here is a list of fines:
- 0.22mg / l or more but less than 0.35 mg / l – € 179 (If you don’t have a place of residence in Belgium you will have to pay this immediately)
- 0.35 mg / l = or more but less than 0.44 mg / l – € 420
- 0.44 mg / l = or more but less than 0.50 mg / l – € 578
- 0.50 mg / l = or more but less than 0.65 mg / l – € 1260 for the people who don’t have residency, for who have – a court will decide the fine
Also, police will revoke your driving license for the period of 3 hours (first case), 6 hours (second and third cases) and 15 days (fourth case). If you don’t have it, they will take your bike instead. Or course, you can ask for a blood test if you don’t agree with previous results (but keep in mind, you can be asked to pay the costs for those analysis). In case you refuse to take any tests, you will be cited for it.
3. Why don’t we get any instructions at university?
‘ Because it’s considered that we know them. In Belgium, children study those regulations at schools (elementary school, 6-12 years old): they have special classes and even an exam. Ferry de Prins, policeman specialist in road safety teaching, told us: ‘We go to the schools and we show pupils how to ride. We also organize some bike events where theoretical knowledge is explained. This year, we taught almost all the pupils in Mechelen and also some in Willebroek. Around 1,700 pupils. That’s a lot of work.
4. What else should I know?
You have to take into account that is forbidden to ride without holding the handle bar, without having your feet on the pedals, or while using your phone. You shouldn’t take anyone on the luggage rack (which could be so dangerous).
It’s important that you have two reflectors too, one white in front or your bike and one red on the back. Also, the pedals have to have them, which could be yellow or orange. You are not obliged to wear a helmet, however Ferry de Prins, confirmed: “People who ride mountain bikes use it, also kids. But the rest of the people (from 12 years in advance) don’t wear it because it’s not “fashionable”. I think a helmet is one of the more important parts while riding, you have to protect your head. For example, the damage or other parts of the body can be fixed, but maybe not the damage to a head. I personally think that a regulation law should be done soon ”.
Did you know that you should have your bell in order? Then you could warn the others that you want to pass. Use your arms too when you want to change your direction!
5. Should I register my bike?
You can, but your aren’t required. It just makes it easier for the police to give your property back if they find it. It’s so important that you report this problem, as around the 70% of the stolen bikes that are engraved are found.
To register, you only have to take your ID with you to the police. Easy.
6. What’s your place on the road?
“The most important thing when riding is a bike, or course, following the rules. Traffic is so complicated because it’s increasing, and it’s dangerous even for adults. Sometimes it’s hard to follow all the rules, so it’s important for international people to know the rules of the country and they have to think about their own safety first. “
Bicycle riders have to follow car’s signs. if you see the STOP sign. You are not allowed to continue riding that way. Only if you see this sign (EXCEPT) beneath
Next to the roads you can find those lines. Bikes are allowed to drive here but follow right the direction of travel.
We should give priority to the drivers coming from our right-hand side but we also have priority about drivers coming from our left. ‘ There are not a lot of accidents because in the city, cars don’t drive fast in the places that are frequented by bikes. “We would really like to ban cars from the city center of Mechelen,” said Mr de Prins.
Do not ride when you see this sign.
Search for this one instead. Don’t forget to give way to pedestrians waiting at a zebra crossing.
Do you think there is awareness among exchange students about the importance of following these rules? ” Students are almost adults, so they really should know how to ride and how to act in traffic,” said Ferry de Prins. “Especially in Europe, because practically the rules are the same. We are teaching from the beginning, primary school and elementary school. Pupils in sixth grade take an exam and we’ll see if they are capable to ride ”
Do you consider that universities should make more campaigns about this? Yes, I think that a lot of courses are given at Primary Schools made by universities. They have already attended school lessons because that was compulsory. I know there are a few companies in Belgium that work on those things, for example VIAS, a Belgium agency for road safety.
Text: Ekaterina Korneva, Carmen Moya Tárraga, photos: © Ekaterina Korneva