BG 161 – Detour

Belgians claim they are ‘born with a brick in their stomach’. By which they mean that they are always building, rebuilding and renovating. This applies not only to their houses, but also to their roads.
Despite this, the Belgians seem unable to make proper roads.

I come from the Netherlands, where the roads are much better and where there is also a safe and extensive cycle path network. That is why many Belgians who enjoy cycling or motorcycling regularly travel to the Netherlands. As a Dutch person, the deplorable state of the Belgian roads therefore strikes me even more.

We, for example, live in a street that is covered with cobblestones (in Dutch also referred to as ‘children’s heads’). They are probably intended to slow down traffic, after all, the maximum speed here is 30 km/h, but that doesn’t help, because almost everyone here drives too fast, without it having any consequences for them. And because of those cobblestones, that traffic makes a lot of noise. Fortunately, I got used to that sound pretty quickly.

But then other roads in this country. They still have heavily used roads here that are made of ‘kdeng, kdeng, kdeng’ concrete slabs. And the asphalt roads are often full of potholes. They try to seal those holes every now and then with a bit of new asphalt or cement, making it a patchwork blanket of holes and bumps. Even if they close a road for months in order to cover it with a new layer of asphalt in a professional manner, holes will immediately appear again during the next frost period. Why they cán make solid asphalt in the neighboring country of the Netherlands and not here is a mystery to me.

Anyway, despite the fact that the result remains pathetic, they are always busy breaking up and patching up roads here. Strangely enough, there is no coordinated planning, so that one road diversion diverts another road diversion, and roads that run through several municipalities are provided with new asphalt bit by bit, so that they sometimes spend two years tinkering the same road. After which they would actually have to start all over again, because the piece that was done first already has holes and cracks again.

The Dutch and Belgians use different words for a detour: ‘wegomleiding’ and ‘wegomlegging’. Belgians have all kinds of signs for ‘detour’. Metal signs on concrete feet, signs on wooden posts that they hammer into the ground, signs of wood or metal that they attach to walls, white signs with blue text, blue signs with white text, white signs with text in the color of a pot of paint that they happened to have left, etcetera.

If you ask for directions anywhere in Belgium (whereby I have a chance that they will deliberately send me in the wrong direction because of my Dutch accent, haha) and you follow their directions carefully, you will often after the next exit already bump into a ‘detour’ sign and have to just figure out for yourself how to get to your destination.

On a beautiful summer day I took a ride on my moped (confusingly called a ‘scooter’ in Dutch, whereas we call a scooter a ‘step’) and at one point ended up at a crossroads in the countryside, where I stopped for a while to orient myself on how to continue my way. I (like many women) don’t have a great sense of direction. And then I noticed that all four roads of the intersection (there were two roads that intersected) had a ‘detour’ sign. Ha! So if I had strictly adhered to those signs, I would still be standing at that crossroads today…