Arrows on the tarmacBelgium is one of the last places where the priorité à droite rule still applies to traffic (more from Marko and Expatica) – i.e. when on any road you should give priority to traffic joining from the right. If you’re on a major thoroughfare and there’s a piddling side-road to your right then step on the brake and let that car in from the side road. That’s unless of course there’s a sign telling the driver on the side road to give way, but if you’re on the main road then how do you know what signs the other driver can see? So you better slow down anyway.

Add some further complications, like speed bumps, or junctions with many roads coming together at the same place (there’s a brilliant 5-way star junction on rue Bonneels in St Josse) and it becomes a game of nerve. No-one seems to know whether you should give priority to the traffic from the second road on the right, and I personally make it even more confusing by being a cyclist – is it even worth stopping for someone on a bike? Add to that the multi-national confusion of Brussels, pot-holes in the cobbled streets, and the fact that anyone over about 60 on the roads in Belgium has never had to pass a driving test and it makes driving (and particularly cycling) in Brussels a unique challenge. I wonder whether they have ever done studies about the number of accidents that happen as a result of all of this? At least I haven’t been hit yet…


  1. Have you been driving in Brussels!?!?!!?

  2. john somer

    We used to have a simple system: any street that had tram rails had the right of way. But a court decided that was in contradiction with the rules establsihed by the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe so we had to adopt the “priorité de droite”.
    But have you eveer tried the “Rond-point de l’Etoile” in Paris ? A French friend told me years ago there were two methods to tackle it: the “dead man;s method” wjere you rushed for the center, availing yourself pf your “priorité”, hugging the center until you came to your exit avenue and dashing out, hoping all the other vehicles on your right would chicken out…. or the “Casper Milquetoast method”, where you hugged the outer rim and stopped forx traffic coming from the right at every avenue, Either method was not especially good for your heart

  3. I had to wonder when your Brussels enthusiasm would start to be drained away by the realities of life in the continent’s capital.

    However, given the political climate, I think you miss the key argument of climate change in your analysis of the disastrous effects of this rule. Surely all that braking and accelerating can not be good for fuel consumption? As the car industry currently wants to see drivers to drive in a climate change friendly manner, perhaps they could take it up with the Belgians on our behalf?

    We look forward to your future postings on other Brussels bete noires, such as the paving slabs. Not sure if you have noticed but they are a bit like a House of Fun fairground ride and give you the old water up the trouser leg on a rainy day. I have found that the only solution is to take the car everywhere you go.

  4. That’s an excellent idea actually… I think Mark Mardell even visited a green driving centre somewhere in Flanders and blogged about it. Probably it will get stuck in the language divide before anything changes though.

    And yes, the paving slabs issue (and getting wet feet) is quite frustrating, although I am somehow relieved by it – it shows that the Belgian litigation culture is less developed than that against UK local authorities! 🙂

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