Gent is a vivid, vibrant, and growing city. This has plenty of advantages, but also brings with it some challenges, as the pressure of motorised traffic on the city keeps on growing. To ensure Ghent’s accessibility and livability in the future, the city council decided to implement a new Circulation Plan in April 2017.
Whoever now wants to move from one city district to another must make use of the inner-city ring road. The ultimate goal of the Circulation Plan is to take through traffic out of the city centre. That means whoever needs to be in the city centre will be able to get there more easily.
The Circulation Plan is part of a larger mobility plan devised in 2012 in response to the rising amount of car traffic in the inner city. Over a period of 10 years, more than 8,000 extra cars were registered in the city.
This resulted in significant pressure on street parking in Gent and the beginning of traffic jams on the roads entering the inner city.
Gent's broader mobility plan has set out clear targets with regards to the modal split it wants to achieve by 2030 (the figures that the targets are compared to come from 2012). These are:
- Car usage reduced from 55 to 27 per cent;
- Cycling increasing from 22 to 30 per cent;
- Public transport usage increasing from 9 to 20 per cent;
- Walking increasing from 15 to 18 per cent.
To prevent cars from needlessly crossing the city center, the Circulation Plan divides the city into six separate districts (including the city centre) and one large car-free/pedestrian zone.
If cars would like to move from one sector to another, they need to make use of the inner city ring road as part of the plan. Direct journeys between the areas are not allowed. Numerous measures have been implemented to ensure that this rule is followed:
- The driving direction of vehicles was changed in 77 streets.
- It is now forbidden for cars to drive through several streets. Exceptions are made for cars with special permits, buses, and taxis. Cameras with license plate recognition technology have been placed at three crucial points to ensure that this is enforced.
The streets through which cars can enter the pedestrian zone are now also equipped with cameras with license plate recognition technology.
Whilst the plan necessitates big changes that will require some adjustment from residents, the city will reap the benefits in the long term. The main benefits are that:
- The city center will remain accessible because of the Circulation Plan. Pedestrians, cyclists and public traffic will profit, but cars that need to be in the city centre will also be able to reach their destination faster. Suppliers, health care providers, or older people will also be able to access and find car parking space more easily.
- The Circulation Plan keeps the city center livable. Cyclists, pedestrians, trams and buses confiscate take up less of the available public space than cars.
As implementation only began very recently, a quantified evaluation is not yet complete. A report containing full results will be published at the beginning of 2018.
As the full evaluation report is not yet ready, it is currently hard to comment on challenges, opportunities, and transferability.