Tag Archives: belgium

Speed Limit and signs – Driving rules

The speed limit rules in Belgium are pretty simple to understand. Let’s first start with the default speed limits that apply throughout the country. When you enter the country by road you will see a huge sign, pictured below, stating the default speed limits. I’m going to explain what is shown on the board from top to bottom.

Sign stating all the default speed limits
Sign stating all the default speed limits

  • Atop the sign is the name of the country, here written in Dutch.
  • Outside of populated urban areas the speed limit is 90km/h. That is about 55mph.
  • Inside of populated urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h. That is about 30mph.
  • On roads with 2 lanes in each direction and divided by a wall of some sort, the speed limit is 120km/h. That is about 75mph.
  • On freeways, indicated by the freeway sign (see below), the speed limit is 120km/h. That is about 75mph.

Below is a list of the current traffic signs that have a speed limit implication.

There are two kinds of speed signs. Zonal signs are valid until they are canceled by another sign. Normal speed signs are valid until just after the next intersection. Every side street where traffic can come out of, is an intersection, not just crossroads.

  1. Zonal signs
    • Enter a populated urban area
      Enter populated urban areaThis is a zonal sign, this means that as long as you are inside the zone indicated by this sign, the speed limit applies. In this case the limit is 50km/h for populated urban areas. When you encounter the same sign with a red (or sometimes black) diagonal line through, then you have exited the zone and the limit no longer applies.
    • Enter an inhabited district with children possibly playing on the street
      WoonerfThis sign is used only on roads in heavily populated districts of the city, where children could be playing in the streets. This is a zonal sign and the speed limit that is implied is 25km/h (about 14mph). The sign is valid as long as you don’t see the same sign with a red diagonal through it.
    • Enter an area with a stated speed limit
      F4AThis is a zonal sign with a speed limit indicated, it is valid as long as you don’t see the same sign with diagonal sign through, in this case the diagonal is black, as it is normally with other non-zonal signs. This sign is mostly used with speed limit 30km/h (about 16mph) around schools. There is also an automated version of this sign that lights up when school children could be present (at scheduled hours). In that case the sign only applies when it is illuminated. When it’s off you can’t read it and thus it does not apply.
    • Enter a freeway
      Freeway signThis sign indicates the start of the freeway. On the freeway the default speed is 120km/h, unless otherwise stated by speed signs. Trucks that carry over 3,5 metric tons of weight are limited to 90km/h speed. The limit is mechanically enforced. On the freeways there are regular speed checks by the police.

  2. Speed Signs
    • Normal speed sign
      Speed SignThis sign is heavily used on all the Belgium roads. Outside of the populated areas the speed limit is mostly enforced with a 70km/h (about 44mph) speed sign.



All the images of traffic signs are in the public domain.

The Kingdom of Belgium

Flag_of_BelgiumGreater_Coat_of_Arms_of_Belgium

Belgium, or officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. The current King is Philippe of Belgium, whom ascended the throne on July 21st, 2013.  In reality the King does not have real power and mostly plays a representable role.

EU-Belgium

Belgium is a small country (only 30,528 km2 or 11,787 sq mi) in Western Europe, with a population around 11,035,948 according to the 2012 census. Belgium is centrally located between the Latin and Germanic speaking parts of Western Europe. Because of this strategic location it has always been a flourishing region throughout history but has also seen many battles, hence the nickname “Battlefield of Europe”. Belgium has a coastline on the North Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s neighboring countries are The Netherlands in the north, Germany in the East, Luxembourg (the country, not the Belgian province with the same name) south-east and France in the south. The capital of Belgium is Brussels, which is also the biggest city in the country.

Belgium consists of the Flemish, Dutch-speaking, region of Flanders in the north and the Walloon, French-speaking, region of Wallonia in the south. The third official region is the bilingual region of Brussels-Capital, although located inside Flanders mostly French is spoken. There is also a German-speaking enclave in the eastern part of Wallonia, but this is not a separate region.

Regions_of_Belgium
Regions:

  Flemish Region / Dutch language area
  Brussels-Capital Region / bilingual area
  Walloon Region / French and German language areas
 

This makes for a very complicated government. Firstly we have the federal government who has dominance on a number of domains such as taxes, justice and many more. Then we have the 3 regions named above (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) who each have their own government and have dominance over a number of domains such as health-care, tourism, agriculture and many more.
Then there are the 3 official languages who form their own communities with again a government. The Flemish region, where only Dutch is spoken, has the same government for the region and the community. For Wallonia or Brussels, this is not possible because of the multiple languages. The community government has dominance on domains such as education, culture, youth and many more.
Together this makes a very difficult country to govern and difficulties forming a federal government after each federal election. Because of this Belgium obliterated the record for longest time needed to form a government after an election (541 days after the 2010-2011 election). The most troublesome topic is the state reforming, the more wealthy Flemish region wants more independence and thus more dominance about a number of domains, whilst the Walloon region opposes this.

120px-Belgium_brussels_iris
Brussels, the capital, is mostly known for the statue of “MannekePis”, a naked child urinating. But also the Grand Place with the spectacular City Hall and the Atomium, a huge (102m 335ft high) statue representing the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal. It was built for the 1958 World Expo that was held in Brussels.

Flag_of_Flanders Flanders is known for its lovely cities rich on history, the most famous being Bruges in the western part of Flanders. But there is also Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven and Ypres.  The year 2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of World War 1 and many festivities are focusing on Ypres and the surrounding Flanders Fields. Ghent and Bruges are towns with a nice medieval city centre rich on history . Leuven has a mix of history and students, because it’s home to “Katholieke Universiteit Leuven”, the largest university of the low countries and the oldest catholic university still in existence. Antwerp, the largest Flemish city, has the second largest harbor in Europe, and is a modern city with a taste for fashion. The “Onze-lieve-vrouw”-cathedral is the largest (120m 390ft) of the low countries. During the middle ages Antwerp was a gathering place for artists and cultural development.

Flag_of_Wallonia Wallonia is known for the Ardennes, a region of forests, rough terrain, hills and ridges. There a number of large cities worth visiting such as Charleroi, Li├Ęge, Namur, Mons and Tournai. There are also some unique historic sites such as “The Lion’s Mound” where Napoleon was defeated.

 
Attributions and copyright:
Belgian Coat of Arms image used from Wikipedia, original author: sodacan. This image is licensed as Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike.
Belgian flag image used from Wikipedia, original author: Dbenbenn and others. This image is in the public domain.
European map image used from Wikipedia, original author: NuclearVacuum. This image is licensed as Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike.
Belgian regions image and caption used from Wikipedia, original author: Ssolbergj. This image and caption is licensed as Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike.
Brussels region flag image used from Wikipedia, original author: Ssolbergj. This image and caption is licensed as Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike.
Flanders region flag image used from Wikipedia, original author: Lemmens Tom. This image is in the public domain.
Wallonia region flag image used from Wikipedia, original author: Cedric de Launois. This image is in the public domain.

Priority to the right – Driving rules

Belgium has some very confusing rules about priority, or the right of way, when driving on the road, at least it will seem like that to non-Europeans. Let’s start with the default rule:

  • On an intersection, traffic coming from your right-hand side has priority. You have priority upon traffic coming from your left-hand side.

To clarify, an intersection is not only crossroads, it is any junction or side-road. To further clarify most intersections have signs that overrule the default ruling.

  • Exceptions: Signs showing you have priority.
    1. Diamond sign (B9):
      DIAMOND Belgian_road_sign_B9This sign is posted along the side of the road, it might be on top of another sign, like above the speed sign in the photo below. This sign indicates that the road next to it has priority on the next intersection. As with all non-zonal signs, this sign is only valid until just after the next intersection. So the sign must be repeated after the next intersection or it is no longer valid. This same sign with a black diagonal band on top it, cancels the priority. This sign is mostly used on provincial roads with multiple lanes. Click here for a real-life photo.
    2. Rocket sign (B15):
      Belgian_road_sign_B15This sign is widely used in urban areas, it is posted ahead of an intersection to show that you have priority. The sign can be adjusted a little according to the layout of the intersection. As with all non-zonal signs it is only valid until just after the next intersection.
    3. Layout sign (B0):
      Belgian_road_sign_B0This sign is mostly used at complex intersections. It is posted along side the road that has priority. The road that has priority is indicated by the thicker line on the sign. As with all non-zonal signs it is only valid until just after the next intersection.
  • Exceptions: Signs showing you don’t have priority.
    1. STOP sign:
      Belgian_road_sign_B5This one is easy, this is the same all over the world. It means you have to come to a full stop and you don’t have priority. You have to stop right at the location of the sign. Most of the time there is also a big white band on the road to indicate the place to stop. Click here for a real-life photo.
    2. Yield sign:
      96px-Belgian_road_sign_B1.svgThis sign indicates you don’t have priority and should slow down to check before continuing. You have to yield to other traffic. You don’t have to come to a full stop if not necessary. Usually the sign is accompanied by shark teeth painted on the road. Click here for a real-life photo.
  • Exceptions: other
    1. Roundabout sign:
      RoundaboutThis sign indicates that you are about to drive on to a roundabout. Cars already on the roundabout always have priority. Beware of bicycles, when the bicycle lane is on the roundabout road they have priority on all traffic, so look before you exit the roundabout. On newer roundabouts the bicycle lane is separated from the road and then there are small yield signs posted for the bicyclists. But beware most bicyclists will cross anyway.



Images of the traffic signs are in the public domain. Images used from Wikipedia. Photos are copyrighted.