Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wanted: Traffic Expert (Relocation a must)

Belgium has gone mad when it comes to traffic signalization. On our recent vacation in Belgium, although I do carry a Belgian driver's license, I felt like a foreigner in my own country when it came to driving.

Several traffic signs where completely new to me.
At the entry roads to Antwerpen, I noted the following sign over and over. At first I thought something was going to fall on my car. But the red circle does not mean this is an advisory sign, rather a mandatory rule. The signs means no entry for cars who carry explosive or incendiary cargo. I didn't take it conveys the message very clearly.

The provincial recreation park, De Nekker, in Mechelen featured a funny sign: no waterpipes allowed. (Photo forthcoming).

Even since unmanned cameras were allowed by law to catch speeding, local governments have been installing these "birdnests" as my dad calls them, everywhere.

Even in the middle of the night on an empty road, you better be on the look out for them, as they never rest.

To increase the effectiveness of these cameras (read: revenue), it appears there's an active campaign to confuse drivers about the current speed limit. This is especially the case if you are not familiar with the area.
  • In Tremelo, in one direction you can drive 70km/hr. Make a U-turn and the speed limit is 50km/hr. It turns out the town limit with Keerbergen is in the middle of the road.
  • In several town centers, I noted an "end of 30km/hr" sign. The "entering 30km/hr" sign is nowhere to be seen. You are speeding by definition.
  • "Herhaling" means "repitition". All ofa sudden you encounter a sign "50km/hr- herhaling". Shock! Was I speeding? Where was the first sign? Nobody knows. Also known as X-signs.
  • As you leave a town, the typical speed limit is 70km/hr. We saw several times when a 70km/hr sign is followed withing 100 meters(!) by a 50lm/hr sign, allowing drivers to squeeze one quick burst out of the engine.
  • Upon entering an urban area, a white sign indicates the name of the town, as well as a little pictorial about the local abbey or church. This also means 50km/hr. Why not add a sign stating the speedlimit explicitly. It will be much easier for tourists and foreigners.
  • While on one hand overloading the meaning of the sign with a speedlimit, there are plenty of examples proving the Belgian maffia must own signage companies. On several roads I noted signs literally every 200 meters (with no street crossings in between). On the stretch Herselt-Aarschot, I must have counted ten 70km/hr signs every 200 meters. This little stretch is also known for extreme alzheimers.
Speed limit signs a plenty, direction signs are few. Unlike in the US, driving to and from town centers based upon signs is nearly impossible. I was looking for the note "Sponsored by Garming or TomTom" underneath the signs. Luckily I was well prepared using Google Maps.

Poorly design beltways where two lane roads are reduced to one lane traffic jams, the wild grow of speed limit signs, the lack of directions and the "birdnests", really take the fun out of driving in Belgium. It's time to get some real experts behind the wheel. Traffic experts, apply in the comments section.

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