When I was in Ghent (= Gent, Gante or Gand), a lot of the bicycles had little signs on them reading “Weer een Auto Minder”, which means: Again one less car. Or: Another car less.
Or, for us older folks: Another car fewer.
(When I was in school, were taught to say fewer instead of less when talking about countable nouns. But never mind, the point is to have more bicycles on the streets and not so many cars.)
At my hotel I asked where the closest place was to rent a bicycle, and they gave me this address on Steendam, near the Friday Market.
When I got there they had only one rental bike left, so I took it even though it was a bit small for me. I neglected to note down the price, but I don’t think it was excessive.
An interesting feature of this bike shop is the building it is in. It has a stepped gable, like many historic houses in Ghent, but it is made of stone, not brick, so I suppose it must have been built by some wealthy person who could afford to have the stones brought in at great expense from distant quarries.
Their bike did get me around town, all right, but I think the next time I’m in Ghent I’ll try somewhere else. For instance there is a bike shop next to the railroad station that I haven’t tried yet.
Hoornstraat means Horn Street, but you don’t hear many horns here, just bells from the bicycles. There are hundreds of bicycle stands in this street, but that’s no guarantee you’ll find a free one, because lots of people come here by bicycle to do their shopping.
The Korenmarkt is a square in the center of Ghent, between St. Nicholas Church and the Lys River. Koren means corn, so this is a place where grain was bought and sold in the Middle Ages. For most of the twentieth century the Korenmarkt was nothing but a large parking lot for cars, but now they say it is “the heart of the largest pedestrianized shopping area in Europe.”
Langemunt (= Long Mint) is a shopping street that leads off the Korenmarkt to the northeast.
This corner is right in front of the entrance to Gravensteen Castle, so it’s quite a busy place. Two of the tram lines split up here. Line number 1 goes off to the west, while line number 4 keeps going north. But you don’t need to use the trams as long as you have a bicycle.
Parents in Ghent have various ways of transporting their children by bicycle. What I like about the bike in the first photo (on the left) is that the older child, at the front, has the option of peddling a bit whenever she wants to. I have seen several of these bikes, and usually the kids seem proud to be doing their share.
The kids in the second photo don’t have this option, but at least they are being chauffeured around town in a responsible way.
Obviously you aren’t going to drive around Ghent in a car, as this would be irresponsible as well as inconvenient. But if you do, don’t park in places that are reserved for the handicapped.
Like most other Belgian cities, Ghent has built numerous underground parking garages, which at least have the advantage of getting the bagnoles off the streets and out of sight. On the other hand, these garages have the effect of generating unnecessary car traffic, so they are a mixed blessing.
I should add, though, that the underground parking garages all have free toilets which are kept reasonably clean and are open to everyone, even non-motorists.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2019.
See more posts on cycling in European cities.