Beveren is a municipality of 49,000 people in the Belgian province of East Flanders. It’s home to the Waaslandhaven, an essential part of the Port of Antwerp. The port attracts a lot of trade and shipping, but it also impacts traffic in the local community.
Trucks, and an increasing number of cars, use shortcuts through Beveren’s residential areas to avoid heavy traffic. Because of increased road work in the area, including the major Oosterweel project, this situation is unlikely to resolve itself in the years to come. That’s why, in 2020, the municipal council decided to take action. To keep passing traffic out of residential neighborhoods as much as possible, they decided to create a new circulation plan. To ensure everyone is on board and community needs are relfected, the municipality also planned to continously involve residents in the process.
“By leaving our cars at home and taking our bikes more often, we create a safer and more liveable environment.”Mobility Commissioner Raf Van Roeyen
Keeping neighborhoods traffic-light
Beveren launched its participation project in the spring of 2020. The administration had already created a few proposals for the new neighborhood circulation plan and wanted to present these plans to its residents. In pre-covid times, the municipality might have organized a traditional information session, but this time it opted for a digital platform.
In the first phase, the board followed a three-step process. First (1) they determined the project’s primary objectives. Second (2) they created a focus group to invite input from experts, local councilors, advisory boards, neighborhood committees, and even the Cyclists’ Union. This phase also included the creation of a bottleneck map that mapped out the key problem areas. Third (3) the input from the second phase was thoroughly analyzed and translated into potential measures for each sub-area.
And this was only the beginning. In phase 4, the proposed measures were presented to the public. Softening streets by removing asphalt, installing tractor gates, warding off traffic with bollards—all possible solutions to keep residential areas traffic-light. Between June 27 and August 14, 2020, residents were given the opportunity to vote and comment on the measures they deemed most effective. Based on residents’ input, the council formulated a new proposal in phase 5, the policy phase.
The wider consultation phase took place in the summer. The platform attracted no less than 2,800 unique visitors, 1,010 of whom registered on the platform. Together, they shared 700+ comments and voted 2,500 times, making for an average of 150 votes and 40 comments per proposed measure.
Worth mentioning? 18% of all participants, or nearly 1 out of 5, were under 30. It seems that the young people of Beveren consider a low-traffic environment to be extra important.
Conclusion and implementation
Throughout the participation process, 17 measures were on the table. Based on residents’ input from the various participation phases, this was narrowed down to a plan with 13 interventions, which will gradually be rolled out in 2021. The municipality will keep residents informed through letters and social media posts.
On top of its high participation levels and smooth process, this project has also brought along a change in mentality, says Mobility Commissioner Raf Van Roeyen. “These past few months have taught us one thing: residents are re-discovering the added value of cycling and walking routes in our residential areas. By leaving our cars at home and taking our bikes more often, we create a safer and more liveable environment.”
After the successful implementation of the new circulation plan, the platform will host a range of new projects. A first survey about the reconstruction of the Spoorweglaan has already attracted over 200 participants in the spring of 2021.