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Ghent’s Circulation Plan

Red and purple lines have appeared on the roads in Ghent to indicate a new zone

On Monday 3rd April 2017 Ghent’s new circulation plan (circulatieplan or mobiliteitsplan in Dutch) came into effect. With the official website only available in Dutch, it’s difficult for expats to know what this all means for them, and – probably most importantly – how to avoid a fine. Here’s our guide to what’s changed, why and some useful things to know.

What is a circulation plan?

It’s a fancy way to explain a decision the city made some years ago to try and remove traffic from Ghent’s historic city centre. The main goals they aim to achieve are:

  • More space for pedestrians and cyclists
  • A safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists, and a generally healthier one for all of our lungs
  • A more efficient city centre with fewer traffic jams, or files as they’re known here. Business and emergency services etc can get where they need to more quickly.
More relaxed shopping and cafes on the car and bike-free Kalandeberg, thanks to Ghent's circulation plan
More relaxed shopping and cafes on the car and bike-free Kalandeberg

What actually changed?

  • The city centre was divided into 6 zones, which you can see on the circulation plan map here.
  • Cars wanting to get from one zone to another need to use the inner ring road (R40) to do so
  • You’ll see red and purple stripes (see image) on the roads – and pavements – in certain locations. These mark new public spaces (knips and car-free zones, or a low-traffic area in Sint-Pieters-Nieuwstraat). You can’t drive down here. Instead you need to go back up to the ring and around. 
  • Within the 6 circulation plan zones, some extra streets are closed to vehicles, others are closed to cyclists
  • Some streets are now one-way for vehicles
  • Around 1900 street signs were changed/added

Ghent's circulation plan on the map

Cycling

The following streets are now closed to cyclists between 11am and 6pm each day. You are still allowed to push your bike through the streets though:

  • Langemuntstraat (the shopping street with Primark near the Vrijdagmarkt square)
  • Donkersteeg (the narrow alley between the Korenmarkt square and the Stadshal)
  • Mageleinstraat to Koestraat (the long shopping street that heads up into the university district)
  • The Graslei (next to the water in the very historic centre) – but this ban only applies between June and September
Koestraat is now closed to bikes between 11am and 6pm, due to Ghent's circulation plan
Koestraat is now closed to bikes between 11am and 6pm

Good to know

  • If you have friends or family staying over in a city-centre hotel – and they’re coming either in their own car or a hire car – they will need to get a circulation plan permit from the hotel when booking. They should let the hotel know their license plate (or that it’s a hire car so the license plate is unknown).
  • The following are allowed to enter the car-free zones: emergency services, buses, trams, waste and recycling collection vehicles, taxis and doctors on home visits etc with permits, electric bikes, cargo bikes and class A mopeds. The same (plus class B mopeds) are also allowed to go across the knips (Ottogracht, Bargiebrug & Lippensplein).
  • If you break the rules then you risk a 55 euro fine. Cameras have been set up at the knips to capture license plates so you’ll then be sent the fine through the post in the same way you do for a speeding ticket.
  • If you’re a cyclist, you’ll be stopped by police if they happen to catch you in the act. This can also result in a 55 euro fine.
  • There are Park & Rides outside the centre (indicated on the Circulation Plan map) – the general idea being that if you live outside the centre and just want to visit Ghent for the day to have a look around or do some shopping, you’re better off leaving your car at a Park & Ride.

Useful links

  • If you want to apply for a permit, you can read the (Dutch only) instructions and apply online via this link or call into the Mobiliteitsbedrijf at Sint-Michielsplein 9.
  • Most GPS and smartphone maps have now been updated. If in doubt, this handy online route planner allows you to enter your start and finish point, choose whether you’re a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, and it’ll plot the quickest route you’re allowed to take.
  • This section of the Stad Gent website provides more English information about the circulation plan.
  • You can read more about public transport in Ghent here.
A new 'knip' outside the Vooruit, part of Ghent's circulation plan
A new ‘public space’ outside the Vooruit

Last updated: April, 2018

Heather
Heather is a language and travel geek at heart, having gotten the bug for it while studying German and Italian in her home country, England. After managing hotel content for a start-up in Berlin, being an Erasmus student in Bologna and writing for Frommer's travel guides while in London, she moved to Gent in 2015 for a year. Still here, Gent must have been doing something right! She's now determined to help other newbie expats settle in and build a great life here in this beautiful city. If you'd like to get in touch, send an email to heather@thesquare.gent

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