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‘Pak ze aan, de Turnhoutsebaan’ - cyclists' safety in a less car-centric Antwerp, Belgium


The 'Turnhoutsebaan' is an important route for both cyclists, cars and public transport from the northern and eastern suburbs of Antwerp to enter the city. Yet the cycling infrastructure is lagging far behind, so far that one in two traffic victims in this key route are cyclists [1]. Considering the increasingly higher number of people choosing to cycle to work and the corresponding mobility plans of both the city of Antwerp and the Flemish government to increase the number of cyclists, citizens demand a safer environment for cyclists on the Turnhoutsebaan. Aside of the usual lobbyists for better cyclist infrastructure, the Belgian Cyclists Union (Fietsersbond), an extra organization was founded to specifically tackle the issues on this road, 'Pak ze aan, de Turnhoutsebaan' which means "Tackle it, the Turnhoutsebaan", in Dutch. The organization first gained publicity through its facebook group and instagram page, further on they organized several public actions. They were founded closely after the Flemish region proclaimed they wouldn't fix the regional road Turnhoutsebaan any time soon [2]. More specifically the organization wants the Flemish region and Antwerp local government to:

1) tackle the problem of loading and unloading whereby many cars and trucks park on the pavement or cycle lane. 

2) a remodelling of the road to include more space for pedestrians and cyclists and more frequent and safer crossings to improve the shopping experience.

3) decrease the speed limit to 30 km/h

4) redirect the intercity busses (e.g. Flixbus) who use this road to reach the Astridplein at the end.

The organization has reached attention by organizing public demonstrations like artistically painted car wrecks to draw attention, photoshoots with local citizens on the road, painting a fake cycle lane (although it was contested by the organization that this was their work). Through these actions the organization managed to attract the attention of several public figures like former Mayor of Antwerp, Bob Cools who suggested to turn it into a one-way street [3] and eventually also Flemish minister of mobility, Lydia Peeters who decided to transform the street into a cycle-street [4] [6].. A cycle street entails a maximum speed of 30 and a prohibition for cars to overtake cyclists. This proposal was not welcomed by the Antwerp alderman for mobility, Koen Kennis and the local Police. They claim this is a small measure that will not fix the greater picture and more likely spread the problem outwards. The local Antwerp government planned to give a negative advice for the plans of minister, but failed to reach a compromise. The liberal fraction that is part of the majority, and to whom the minister belongs, was opposed to the negative advice [5]. Ironically this has become a conflict between the conservative party, N-VA, to whom alderman Kennis belongs and the liberals. Yet both parties form the majority of both the city of Antwerp and the Flemish government.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:‘Pak ze aan, de Turnhoutsebaan’ - cyclists' safety in a less car-centric Antwerp, Belgium
State or province:Antwerp
Location of conflict:Borgerhout, Antwerp
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Other
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Ecosystem Services
Disproportionate use of urban space by cars. The commodity causing the conflict is cars, together with urban planning at the service of the cars.

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to Prof. Dirk Lauwers [6], 9 Dec. 2021, traffic measures on the Turnhoutsebaan in Borgerhout would be introduced by the Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV), under the responsibility of Flemish Mininister of Mobility Lydia Peeters (Open Vld): a speed limit of up to 30 km per hour and turn the currently busy road into a bicycle street. In addition, there will be loading and unloading zones and a red road surface and ground marking on the carriageways. There will be a flash camera and new smart cameras at the traffic lights can record whether cars use the tram and bus lane improperly. This proposal was explained to the city and district administration and other stakeholders such as the traders' association and the citizens' collective 'Pak ze aan Turnhoutsebaan'.[6].

More must be done regarding the unsafe traffic situation ... On the 1.3-kilometre stretch in question, more than 30 injury accidents have been occurring every year for years, more than half of them involving cyclists. This means that without measures, we can expect another 150 victims in the next five years. And that is how long it will certainly take before a final redesign can take place; among other things, it is waiting for the completion and opening of some metro stations. The analysis of the traffic police shows that three quarters of these bicycle accidents involve a car. Accidents involving buses and trams are exceptions, but a speed limit of up to 30 km per hour for these heavy vehicles also advisable, given the potential severity of a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian.[6].

Bicycle accidents with cars are mainly related to the opening of car doors after parking (half of the accidents with passenger cars) and with parking maneuvers. So the AWV provides loading and unloading zones to avoid frequent double parking, while the bicycle street allows cyclists to ride more in the middle of the roadway, at a safe distance from the parking lanes. A second dominant type of accident has to do with cars passing cyclists (a quarter of bicycle accidents with passenger cars).With the bicycle street statute, the rule that you are not allowed to pass a cyclist by car would become clearer. .... Reducing the annual number of bicycle victims by a quarter within five years is one of the objectives. Half of the traffic victims in Flanders fall on roads where you can drive 50 km per hour. That is why the minister wants to encourage road authorities to limit the speed to 30 km per hour where 50 kilometres per hour is unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians The Turnhoutsebaan is the litmus test. With the Turnhoutsebaan, Antwerp can become a cycling city for good – or not.[6].

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/10/2019
Relevant government actors:Mayor of Antwerp: Bart de Wever
Antwerp Alderman for mobility: Koen Kennis
Flemish minister for mobility: Lydia Peeters
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Pak ze aan de Turnhoutsebaan (a citizens' initiative):
Fietsersbond Antwerpen:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Global warming, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Other Health impactsTraffic accidents, cyclists as victims.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsDevaluation of the street and area.


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Speed down car speed to 30 km per hours. Cyclists lanes.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:By December 2021 there are proposals to change the traffic rules, mainly to avoid accidents to cyclists.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[6] De Morgen, 9 Dec. 2021. Dirk Lauwers is professor of mobility at Ghent University and UAntwerp and is involved as an expert in the citizens' initiative 'Pak ze aan de Turnhoutsebaan' that strives for 'a safer and greener Turnhoutsebaan for everyone'.

[1] Helft verkeersslachtoffers op Turnhoutsebaan is fietser: “Dat iedere twee weken iemand gewond geraakt is onaanvaardbaar”. Sacha Van Wiele. 2 dec. 2021

[2] “We schoppen met onze acties wel eens tegen de schenen". 11 june 2021.

[3]Voormalig burgemeester Bob Cools: “Maak van Turnhoutsebaan eenrichtingsweg voor auto’s, zodat je de effecten kunt meten”. Philippe Truyts, 8 Oct. 2021

[4]Turnhoutsebaan in Borgerhout wordt fietsstraat: "Er gebeuren jaarlijks te veel ongevallen". Turnhoutsebaan in Borgerhout wordt fietsstraat: "Er gebeuren jaarlijks te veel ongevallen"

De Turnhoutsebaan in Borgerhout wordt een fietsstraat, dat heeft minister van Mobiliteit Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) beslist. Fietsers zullen er binnenkort voorrang hebben en de hele straat wordt een zone 30. "Er zijn te veel ongevallen met slachtoffers en het is bijna waanzin dat je er nu nog 50 kilometer per uur mag rijden. Dit is dus een fameuze stap in de goede richting", zegt districtsburgemeester Marij Preneel (Groen). Léonie Van de Vliet. 28 sep 2021

[5]Geen advies Turnhoutsebaan omdat na twee verdagingen termijn is verstreken. Sacha Van Wiele,Patrick Van de Perre. 10 december 2021 .

Meta information

Contributor:Timothy Abraham, university of Antwerp, [email protected]
Last update19/01/2022
Conflict ID:5793



Cyclists on the Turnhoutsebaan