Chaos for motorists on first day of pedestrian zone

Summary

While Brussels’ new pedestrian zone was quiet yesterday, traffic on the new ring around the zone and on the city’s inner Ring Road was gridlocked

Brussels city centre now has the largest pedestrian zone in Europe outside of Venice. Do you agree with the move?

“Extend it,” says Smet

The first weekday of Brussels’ new pedestrian zone was marked by quiet in the zone itself but traffic chaos on the new loop around the zone, extending as far as the inner ring and the Basilique tunnel.

The new zone, which opened at the weekend, doubles the area of central Brussels now closed to road traffic, becoming the second-largest pedestrian zone in Europe outside of Venice. The new situation creates a mini-ring, leading drivers around the zone.

As expected, the new routes are unfamiliar to drivers, leading to major traffic jams. In addition, the start of the new car-free zone coincided with surface work on the Schuman metro station, which added to the confusion on Wetstraat, one of the most-used approach roads to the city centre.

At one point yesterday morning, it took motorists 90 minutes to travel from Keizer Karellaan in Koekelberg to Rogier, and the problems continued on the inner ring, as drivers used the ring to get from one side of the city to the other rather than use Anspachlaan (pictured), now closed to traffic.

Motorists are expected to adapt to the new conditions in the coming weeks, said Inge Paemen of Brussel Mobiliteit. “It’s too early to draw conclusions,” she said. “Traffic needs time to adapt. That could take two or three weeks.” Brussel Mobiliteit has advised motorists to use public transport in the meantime.

Pascal Smet, minister for mobility in the Brussels-Capital Region, said that the new plan could not be assessed until September when normal traffic levels resume after the summer holidays. Making any conclusions or changes at this early stage would make no sense, he told the infrastructure committee of Brussels parliament.

Smet suggested one radical change, however: Turn the entire inner-city pentagon into a car-free zone. “Whether it’s Dansaertstraat and surrounding streets or the begijnhof area, we have to create a slower city,” he told FM Brussel. The new car-free zone should extend from Keizerslaan, in the area of Central Station, all the way to the canal, he said.

Photo by Bruno Fahy/BELGA

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