Postcard from... Belgium


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The Independent Online


Moving back to Europe after three years living in Bangkok, I thought I had seen the end of the grinding traffic jams which entail sitting in six lanes of hooting cars, taxis, motorbikes and trucks barely creeping forward more than an inch every 10 minutes.

You eventually reach a certain calm acceptance as the time creeps by, and learn to appreciate the precious moments in air conditioning and not stress about something over which you have no control. But that calm appears to have left me after a few years out of Asia. I found myself getting increasingly irate in the back of a stationary cab in the Belgian city of Antwerp as the meter ticked up to €18.85 for a journey that would have taken 15 minutes on foot.

As luck would have it, I have relocated to a country which – according to some surveys – actually has the worst congestion in the world. The INRIX survey reported on the Flanders News website this week put Brussels at the top of its list, with motorists spending an average of 85.4 hours in traffic jams a year. Second on the list? Antwerp, with 76.7 hours. Los Angeles, Milan and London come close behind.

It does, however, all depend on what survey you look at. One by the SatNav company TomTom last year did not even feature Belgium, and decided that Moscow was top of the list.

Before anyone thinks of moving to Asia to escape the traffic, be warned: both those lists shy away from even trying to quantify the traffic chaos in Asia’s congested cities, where it sometimes felt like 85.4 hours were spent in one traffic jam alone.