Brussels city council votes to shrink pedestrian zone

Summary

The Brussels city council has voted to restore traffic to De Brouckèreplein and the section between Lombaardstraat and Fontainasplein

One year on

Brussels city council has voted to reduce the pedestrian zone in the city centre. The new zone runs from Wolvengracht to Beurs, restoring traffic to De Brouckèreplein. Cars are also allowed in the section between Beurs and Fontainasplein.

The decision comes in response to the opposition to the pedestrian zone from local businesses. With the exception of restaurants and snack bars, most businesses claim to have seen their takings reduced by 30-40% because customers cannot get to the city centre by car.

The car-free zone was opened  on 29 June last year, stretching from De Brouckèreplein to Fontainasplein. By autumn, one lane was opened up to traffic between Wolvengracht and Maxlaan, to allow cars and coaches access to the front entrance of the Hotel Metropole. This April, two-way traffic was restored on Lakenstraat and Zuidstraat.

The new changes come as a blow to the plans by mayor Yvan Mayeur to turn De Brouckèreplein into a Brussels equivalent of Times Square. The idea was to use the square as the city’s meeting place, with events like concerts and fireworks displays.

At the other end, the section between Lombaardstraat and Fontainas is also returned to traffic, reducing the pedestrian zone by 400m. The original plan was to turn Fontainas into a grassy garden square.

The association of local retailers reacted to the new plan. “The adjustments will not solve the real problems,” said chair Alain Berlinblau. “Cars are still lined up on Wolvengracht and the inner ring; the tunnels are still closed. That’s why people are not coming to the centre and this isn’t good for us.”

Photo: Miguel Discart