No more tram track crashes? Bike-safe tracks trialled in Ghent, Belgium

Tram tracks have always been a hazard to cyclists. Now, the city of Ghent is testing cycle-safe tracks

Clock10:35, Wednesday 10th April 2024
Trams and cyclists share the roads in Ghent

© Getty Images

Trams and cyclists share the roads in Ghent

Tram tracks have always presented a hazard to cyclists. Where cyclists and trams share the same roads, it is all too easy for cyclists to get their front wheel lodged into the tracks, causing a crash.

It's a problem that Ghent, Belgium, knows well. In Ghent, trams and cyclists share many of the same roads, and 2021 statistics from Ghent University Hospital show that around 500 people are hospitalised each year due to bicycle accidents caused by tram tracks.

Now, the city of Ghent is trialling a new design for tram tracks, in which the dangerous cavity is filled with an elastic compound that will prevent bike wheels from getting stuck.

Read more: How to ride in a city: Cycling tips for busy streets

The technology has been developed and installed by regional Flemish transport operator De Lijn. After some successful initial experiments in test environments, it's being trialled in the city streets.

Filip Watteeuw, Ghent's Alderman for Mobility, said he had tested the tracks himself, and was now keen to test them out in the city.

"I was able to test the half-filled tram tracks myself at the depot – it really does make a difference," he said.

"It’s good that De Lijn can now test this ‘on the ground’. We must do everything we can to make it safe for cyclists near tram tracks."

The filling is a two-part compound that sits at a height so that it doesn't interfere with the tram wheels. This means that, although the tram tracks will not be completely flush to the ground, it will be much easier to cross them on a bike without getting the front wheel stuck.

Read more: How to lock your bike securely

Speaking to Cities Today, a spokesperson from De Lijn said this real-world test was intended to see how cyclists cope crossing the new type of tracks, as well as to find out how durable the new track filling is:

"Two tests have already been conducted before this, but this is the first one on the actual operating network.

"Previously, we tested effectiveness with a trial audience at our depot, and another test was conducted at a different tram stop to assess the application and durability.

"This current test combines aspects from both previous tests under real-life conditions. We will evaluate the test by comparing images before and after the installation to provide an objective assessment of cyclists’ behaviour."

If successful, it could make city cycling that bit safer and more relaxing, both for the residents of Ghent, and perhaps for other tram network cities around the world, too.

For more of the latest updates, visit our general news page.

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