Formerly off-limits to speed pedelecs, Flemish towpaths are now open to their use, as long as 30km/h speed limits are adhered to. The updated ruling is to coincide with new road signs dictating the information.
Nearly 2,000 km of paved towpaths and dyke roads span the length of the waterways in Flanders. Traditionally used by those managing and maintaining the waterways, they are also popular with walkers and cyclists, with speed pedelecs omitted unless the route is part of a highway navigation.
The Flemish Minister for Mobility Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) and De Vlaamse Waterweg have readdressed this, however. Wies Callens of the Fietsbond was delighted by the decision, commenting, “We have been asking for this since 2019, because towpaths invite people to travel long distances, for example for commuting. But also because it is absurd to make a distinction between bicycles with pedal assistance. In a 30 km/h zone it is not forbidden to drive a Ferrari because it can reach up to 300 km/h, as long as everyone uses their common sense and keeps to the permitted speed.”
Due to take place from the summer, Aidan Reinquin, spokesman for Minister Peeters, added, “This does not require a change in the law, but new road signs. They will now be placed as soon as possible. We start in Ghent. The new rule, let it be clear, will only take effect when those new signs have been placed. These are signs with a P on them. Signs that are now there in some places and that indicate that speed pedelecs are prohibited will be removed.”
To safeguard activities and pave the way for better towpath usage, Minister of Mobility Peeters has mapped out a new vision ‘Functional and recreational co-use of towpaths’ with De Vlaamse Waterweg. He announced that in addition to speed and safety restrictions, there is a recognition that the towpaths are in total darkness at night: “Proper maintenance is important and lighting can be installed in well-considered locations based on safety considerations.”