Car-free Sunday offers pedestrians across Flanders daylong treat

Summary

From car-sharing salons in Antwerp to 5km runs in Bruges, this year's car-free Sunday has a range of events to help locals make full advantage of the cities' temporarily pedestrianised streets

Check your auto at the door

Non-essential traffic is banned from many Flemish towns and cities on 17 September for Car-Free Sunday, with a wide variety of events planned to help people to enjoy the streets. These range from concerts and street parties to initiatives encouraging cycling, walking and other sustainable forms of transport.

Bruges has a particularly impressive programme this year, including the opening of a new visitors’ circuit at the Concertgebouw. This offers people a new way to explore the striking architecture of the performance hall and its collection of visual and acoustic art works. The opening day also features musical performances and workshops for the whole family.

Other events in Bruges include a 5km run through the historic centre, walking and cycling routes of various lengths and a wheelchair obstacle course. There are concerts, art events, a festival of mussels and oysters (on Vismarkt, of course) and dancing in the street.

Antwerp’s car-free Sunday features a mobility market and car-sharing salon, exploring ways to travel more sustainably. There are also walking routes through the city, food stalls and concerts.

Ghent has similar attractions, plus the novelty of a car-free fly-over. For just one day, the B401 viaduct in the Zuid neighbourhood will be turned over to pedestrians and cyclists.

Brussels meanwhile has bike circuses at Muntplein and locations in Laeken and Neder-Over-Heembeek; a countryside festival and the BeChill music festival on at Paleizenplein and Warandepark; and street sports on the city-centre pedestrian zone.

Among the smaller towns, Dendermonde stands out for the Boulevart festival of circus and street theatre, with around 20 acts appearing at locations around town. As well as acrobatics and clowning, there are more bizarre entries, such as Wasman, who walks the streets washing people’s hands, and the Sonate Jheronimo, whose massive instruments ride the river (pictured).

17 September across Flanders and Brussels

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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