Ghent’s new circulation plan and how it’s changing the city


On 3 April Ghent will unfold the final stages of its new circulation plan aimed at making the city more accessible and liveable. City life is expected to change dramatically as most of the centre will be car-free. Ghent has coloured red.
We’ll tell you why. 

Channeling the city’s traffic
Ghent is a vibrant city with plenty of students, tourists and start-up businesses. An estimated 700 000 people move around the city every day (source: Stad Gent). The new and ambitious plans aim at creating more space, decreasing congestion and lowering CO2-emissions. Cars will be guided to the ring road as most inbound traffic will be directed into 6 different sectors. Moreover, the historic heart of the city will be entirely car free and clearly outlined by red marks, creating more space for bikers and pedestrians. 

 Red marks outlining the different city sectors

Red marks outlining the different city sectors

Making Ghent accessible and liveable
Ghent is a booming city with a growing number of inhabitants. A population increase of 10% was recorded between 2005 and 2015, and about 100 000 people commute to Ghent every day. To keep the city liveable and to promote its local economy, drastic changes were made to the city’s mobility.

Car-free zones
Parked cars take up a lot of free space and cars driving through the city centre are often noisy and polluting. The existing car-free zone will therefore be expanded to make room for benches, terraces, greenery and bicycle racks. Drivers who still wish to enter these zones will need a proper permit. 

Creating space
Ghentians love to be outdoors. As soon as the sun is shining you’ll find everyone outside enjoying a drink on a terrace, strolling in a park or relaxing at the famous Graslei. That's why creating more space on squares and in streets would be a huge contribution to Ghent's outdoorsy attitude.

The city already took measures to improve safety by lowering its speed limit from 50 km/h to 30 km/h and decided to take further steps with the new circulation plan. To make the city even more pleasant and safe, exclusive lanes and pavements will be introduced for cyclists and pedestrians. Shopping will be more enjoyable as some streets will prohibit cyclists between 11h and 18h while others will transform into pedestrian-only streets in the summertime. Pedestrians will be able to walk freely wherever they want, unhindered by cars or bikes. Car alternatives such as shared bikes, park & rides, a shuttle bus called wandelbus will be introduced and of course public transport will still be widely available. 

 Red marks indicating the border of a car-free zone

Red marks indicating the border of a car-free zone

Adapting to change
Even though most changes are expected to have positive effects on the city in general, the new plans have met some resistance and controversy. Some people disagree with how the mobility plan will affect local businesses. They believe a lot of out-of-town customers will be hesitant to look for alternatives to reach the city centre and will shop in nearby cities with more car accessibility, like Antwerp or Bruges.

In a final effort to block or slow down the implementation of
the circulation plan almost 30 000 signatures were collected

Not only do they fear a decrease in customers, shop owners also worry delivery times will not be met because of restrictions. In a final effort to block or slow down the implementation of the circulation plan they collected almost
30 000 signatures. It’s still unclear if these will have any effect as the project nears its completion.

All change is difficult, but Ghent is not the only city that has made adjustments to its mobility.  Many other cities are actively trying to reduce CO2 emission and congestion by targeting car users. Antwerp has introduced a low emission zone recently and Leuven has had its own similar circulation plan since last summer. 

Finding a solution that satisfies all needs is difficult and public opinion often needs time to adjust. Take the Eiffel tower for example. As soon as the building plans were presented the people of Paris were not at all pleased. Now, it is the most iconic cultural symbol in France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.
However, not all changes are final. 5 years after its completion, the plan will be reviewed and the effects will be examined. If results are positive, streets will be permanently redesigned.

Bubble’s vision
Cities play an important role in ensuring a liveable and durable environment for everyone. According to the United Nations around 70% of the global population will be living in urban areas by 2050. With more and more people buying online, even relatively smaller cities like Ghent will face enormous challenges regarding city distribution and transportation in the near future. 

Our company has always strongly emphasised the urgency for ecological, durable and efficient delivery solutions, centred around the needs of citizens. Rethinking transportation by innovation and experimentation is important if we want to survive modern-day challenges. Of course we understand and share the concerns expressed by local business communities. Bubble Post wants to contribute to a sustainable and green future, that’s why we share the project’s intention and its vision of the future.