Groningen, birthplace of Ghent traffic policy: ‘How we got mustard in Groningen’

Downtown Ghent during the Ghent festivities. Photo: sam decle – https://www.flickr.com/photos/samdecle/3733642420/sizes/l/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?

Exactly five years ago on a Sunday, a traffic plan was presented in Ghent, Belgium. A plan inspired by the Groningen approach.

In Ghent there has been heated debate for a number of years. Due to the increased traffic, the accessibility and quality of life in the city center were under pressure. In the end, the circulation plan was approved with the goal of easing downtown traffic. “I mainly went to get mustard in Groningen,” says Aldermann. red.) Philip Watteau (green) from Mobility. “It was introduced there already in 1977. Groningen was a real pioneer.”

Banned cars from the city center
The plan that Watteau took to Belgium in 1977 was also not controversial in Groningen. In order to improve the accessibility of the city center, part of the Groningen politicians wanted to demolish parts of the city, where the old neighborhoods had to give way to tall buildings and wide avenues. With the distribution plan, of which Max van den Berg and Jacques Wallage were the initiators, a different tactic was chosen. Vehicles were prohibited from entering the city center and parking spaces were removed to make way for the weekly markets in the squares.

Positive feedback in Ghent
In Groningen, many people did not like the plans. Traders were afraid it would cost the business, and the police openly questioned if all traffic procedures could be checked. However, the plan worked surprisingly well. There was no chaos and after forty years no one wanted to go back to the old situation. Feedback in Ghent is also positive. Friend and foe agree that communication should have been better when it was introduced five years ago. The Watteeu is somewhat jealous. Because Groningen has now gone one step further by banning buses from the city centre. Ghent is not far away yet.

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Benny Lemmhaus: ‘We sent the pitcher of Marne Mustard to Ghent’
“I have a nice anecdote,” says GroenLinks board member Benni Leemhuis. Five years ago, Watteau also announced that he had acquired mustard in Groningen. As a group, we sent out a jar of Marne Mosterd, because when we talk about getting mustard from Groningen, that’s what you’re talking about. He responded very kindly to that because we received a jar of Ghent artisan mustard that he sent back, haha. Since then there has been a connection.”

“What they did was take a big step right away.”
Leemhuis was impressed with Ghent’s distribution plan. “What they have done is very impressive. They have taken a very big step with a good plan that they have implemented promptly and well. Look, the problem is the same, but the area in Ghent to which the traffic plan applies is much larger than what we talked about in 1977 in Groningen. We inspired them. , but their plan also inspired us. And that’s a very nice interaction.”

“Everyone wants a city center where you can have a good time”
The council member also says that this is the beauty of party politics: “Every city is different, but almost every old city has to deal with the same problems. More traffic and less space for quality of life. The fact that Groningen is a very beautiful example, we hope we can be like cities.” Because this question is on the agenda in many cities. What do you want your city to look like? Almost everyone wants a city center where people can enjoy themselves, where they can play, where they can walk and cycle. It has become beautiful in Ghent.”

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“I got on a tram”
Then there are the jealous looks of the Ghent Alderman. “Yes, make the city center free of buses. I have a slightly different view on that. Because it is important that bus stops, for example, Zuiderdiep, remain, so that your city center remains accessible. The fact that Grote Markt will no longer be served by buses provides opportunities and this It gives plenty of room to give it a different design. But speaking of jealousy, Ghent has a tram, and we don’t have one (yet), haha.”

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