My band of beercyclists rode their bikes in and around the Westhoek region in Flanders five times in nine years (2000-2008), and I still remember early on when my friend Luc explained the numbered signs.
There are dedicated bike paths away from vehicular traffic, but you’ll also be cycling on roadways. We noticed from the beginning that drivers overwhelmingly are cognizant of bicyclists, and behave responsibly.
No human system is perfect, and yet there is a sense of balance unlike that experienced here in America. We could be better here. It would help to be interested in trying.
How Flanders Made Navigating a Cycling Paradise as Easy as Memorizing a Phone Number, by Daniela de Lorenzo (Atlas Obscura)
To map out routes through stunning landscapes, riders rely on numerical “nodes.”
In Flanders, the best advice to give a disoriented cyclist is: Keep calm and check your crossbar. Many riders haul a string of numbers with them, preprinted or handwritten on a piece of paper. This jumble looks like a telephone number, but it’s really an itinerary: The numbers are a roadmap to the route.