Brussels launches ambitious plan for pedestrian centre

Summary

Taking its cue from Ghent and Bruges, the City of Brussels announced a new transport plan yesterday that would see many of the centre’s squares and streets pedestrianised

Beursplein car-free

Brussels-City authorities have released a radical new car-free street plan, inspired by Ghent and Bruges, which they claim will ultimately give the capital the largest car-free zone in Europe after Venice.

The plan was launched yesterday by Brussels-City mayor Yvan Mayeur, alderwoman for transport, Els Ampe and the Brussels-Capital Region’s mobility minister, Pascal Smet.

The goal of the long-awaited plan is to stop through traffic in the city centre while allowing it to remain accessible to residents. Several new districts will become pedestrianised, including the central boulevards, the Zavel and the Dansaert quarter. In addition, some streets will be reduced to one lane of traffic.

A free electric train would be introduced for pedestrians and tourists, and five new underground car parks would be built to hold some 1,600 cars.

Critics of the plan have argued that it will simply shift traffic congestion to other areas of Brussels, but the council claims that the inner ring will be designed to carry more traffic through the installation of smart traffic lights. The plan also involves transport authority MIVB, which plans to divert several routes and move bus terminuses away from Beurs and De Brouckere.

The city also wants to create several dedicated cycle lanes in the centre and around the inner ring, Smet said. A new underground bike park would be built in the Beurs metro station. He described the cycle plan as “unbelievably positive”.

The new traffic plan will be partly tested during the Winterpret Christmas market, when both Jacqmainlaan and Lakenstraat will be reduced to one-way traffic.

But the biggest change will happen on 18 July, 2015, when the Beursplein is officially made car-free (pictured).

The city council is aware that this is an ambitious project that will cause enormous upheaval. But Mayeur called on Brussels citizens to give it a chance. “It is going to take two years to sort everything out,” he admitted, “but the quality of life for everyone will improve immensely afterwards.”

Image courtesy vrt.prophets.be

Taking its cue from Ghent and Bruges, the City of Brussels announced a new transport plan yesterday that would see many of the centre’s squares and streets pedestrianised.

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Traffic in Flanders

Thousands of commuters and foreigners pass through Brussels and Flanders each day, and the two regions have suffered from heavily congested traffic and long and frequent traffic jams for years – with no end seemingly in sight.
Record - According to the 2013 report from traffic information platform Inrix, Brussels and Antwerp have the most traffic congestion of any city in Europe and North America.
Calendar - October is the worst month of the year for traffic jams.
Causes - Year after year, heavy snowfall and railway strikes lead to monster traffic jams. Heavy congestion, infrastructure works and multi-lane accidents cause the more ordinary daily tailbacks.
1 285

largest area covered in traffic ever recorded in Belgium in kilometres

70

time Antwerp drivers spend in gridlock per year in hours

10 000

traffic diversions in Flanders per year