VTM sports anchor Stijn Vlaeminck (41) can now also agree that cycling on the Ghent tram tracks can be dangerous. Last weekend he had a serious fall, resulting in a serious bruise. De Lijn is currently conducting hopeful tests to increase safety.
Vlaeminck was out with his wife on Saturday evening when he crossed the tram tracks at the Zuid. “I made a turn and ended up on the straight with my front tire. Moreover, it was slippery, and my tires were just properly inflated. I could no longer correct myself and fell to the ground. I could no longer move my arm, and the ambulance had to take me to the hospital.”
A serious bruise, as it turned out, which will bother the journalist for a while. “The first few days I had to wear a brace and was not allowed to move my left arm. Not fun, because I’m left-handed. Showering with one arm is a challenge, I can assure you.”
Little consolation for the unfortunate Vlaeminck: he is certainly not alone. Every year, around 500 cyclists end up in the emergency room after falling on the tram tracks, researchers estimate in a recent study. Last summer and in 2021 there were even deaths.
“The first few days I had to wear a brace and was not allowed to move my left arm. Not fun. Showering with one arm is a challenge, I can assure you”
De Lijn and the City of Ghent have been looking for solutions for a long time. At the beginning of this year, arrows were placed at dangerous points to indicate the safest bicycle line. The posts around switches and stops were removed as much as possible or replaced with a safer, flexible one.
De Lijn is currently experimenting with half-filling the rails with rubbers. “But a few stops still need to be tested before the conclusions can be announced,” Mobility councilor Filip Watteeuw (Green) responded to a question from municipal councilor Anneleen Van Bossuyt (N-VA).
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There is good news to report about the covers on the switches, which can become slippery in rainy weather. “An experiment with a PU coating yielded good results,” says Watteeuw. “That is why De Lijn now promises to introduce this in phases.”
A tested method also proved successful for the joints between the road surface and the track, the aldermen say. “This will now be applied in Poperingestraat, among others.” In that street, near Van Beverenplein, the tram tracks have been in a terrible condition for years.