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Car-Free Streets in Brussels and Several Oppositions

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Brussels, through its Good Move initiative, is aiming to dramatically reduce traffic in the city centre, but not everyone is pleased, Bloomberg has reported.   

From December the 1st Brussels will implement one of the most severe traffic restrictions; “an effective ban on non-local, non-essential traffic in the heart of the Belgian capital”. Ten new streets (in addition to the previous ones) in central Brussels will only be accessible by those working for emergency services, maintenance and delivery, to taxis, health visitors, people with disabilities, residents and business owners within the zone. The first incursion will result in a warning letter with a fine of €58 for every subsequent one. Although many demonstrations have taken place, some of which have demolished signage and removed concrete bollards, Brussels’ governing coalition states that the restriction will be implemented as planned.

“In working-class neighborhoods, many economic activities and many workers depend on the car, including contractors, delivery drivers, wholesalers, mechanics, home nurses [and] industrial and service workers with staggered hours or located in inaccessible areas,” reads a statement from the socialist Workers Party of Belgium, the second-largest opposition party in Brussels’ regional assembly. “They therefore depend more on cars, not by choice but by economic necessity.”

The Good Move initiative is not only about reducing traffic, which is notoriously bad in Brussels, but also about urban planning. The plan is to put in place ‘meshes’ across the city, which are based somewhat loosely on Barcelona’s superblocks. These meshes reduce or restrict vehicle traffic and include built infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians.  

Personal comments 

The main point behind car-free streets is having a better environment for the residents and commuters, however the planning around car-calming projects have become a political issue in Brussels. The article mentions oppositions from different parties against the governing party as the governing party gives permission for the new car-free streets. This brings up the question of what the actual goal is behind the plans? Is it primarily the safety and security of the citizens?

As the oppositions from residents have occurred in three different neighborhoods, it is worth looking at what the demonstrators are saying. The ten streets are in addition to the previous restrictions in the initiative; thus the city planners can learn some insight from the previous projects that has been implemented in Brussels as well as similar cities like Barcelona (as the article stated).

Written by Adeleh Mohammadi, 
RISE Mobility & Systems