City life

Stop perceiving Copenhagen as a 'tourist attraction' by Kwinten Lambrecht

Summer is over, blogging can start again!

In the beginning of the Summer we spent a couple of weeks in Stockholm and Copenhagen, both example cities when it comes to quality of life, public space and well-being.

Copenhagen struck me the most, thanks to its fantastic cycle lanes, infrastructure and places to innovate, dine, drink and hang out. We were lucky to get some insider tips from my good friend Kristoffer, that helped a lot!

Still, I often hear from people that "Copenhagen is great, it's the cycling walhalla". Suddenly, even car freaks start to enjoy cycling. The natural reflex, even from tourists, is to leave their car at home and to cycle multiple kilometers in the city, even when it rains! For them, it's almost a tourist attraction to see all those Danes cycle day in day out. 

That brings me to the most critical point: policy makers in Copenhagen have designed their city on the human scale. It's not 'Disneyland', it's not made like this because cycling is 'fun'. No, the city serves its citizens, with fantastic parks, places to swim, streets where kids can play and cycle lanes that almost hug you as a result.

Copenhagen Swimming Pool - LAMBYK

Once home, tourists get back in their cars and tell each other that they had a great cycling holiday. Point final. The car life continues. And you cannot blame them. Since our policy makers have made it so difficult to cycle that you are still considered to be a lunatic when you tell them you "came by bike". Company cars, terrible infrastructure, non-visionary politicians, .... It's a dangerous, conservative cocktail that needs to be served in the gutter for once and for all. 

The potential to get people on a bike exists, you just have to provide them with the luxury that they encounter in 'cycling city' Copenhagen. Simply waiting for thousands of daredevils who take the streets of Brussels (and Flanders & Wallonia) is a bit too optimistic, I believe...

Copenhagen - LAMBYK

7 reasons why Lyon is winning as a city for people by Kwinten Lambrecht

I recently went on a trip to Lyon. It's a true example of how a city can make its citizens happy. It has a holistic approach to city planning and designing public space. Lyon has the same size as Brussels, around the same numbers of inhabitants (1.3 million) and counts even 40 more municipalities than Brussels does. Nothing is impossible, Brussels!
From what I have seen Lyon is a safe, clean and vibrant place to live, eat, drink and work in. Take good care of your people, and people will take care of your city.

The cycling infrastructure

More than 650 km of safe cycle lanes, bridges and connections.

More than 650 km of safe cycle lanes, bridges and connections.

Les quais

The quays next to the river Saône are an amazing place to hang out, sport, bicycle, walk. That's how you embrace water in your city!

The quays next to the river Saône are an amazing place to hang out, sport, bicycle, walk. That's how you embrace water in your city!

The cycling tunnel

This tunnel, only for cyclists, pedestrians and electric buses connects two parts of the city. Photo via  Almost Landing .

This tunnel, only for cyclists, pedestrians and electric buses connects two parts of the city. Photo via Almost Landing.

Green spaces

Everywhere you go you can find green pavements, small parks, flowers. Green spaces help to support new ecosystems and to cool down cities.

Everywhere you go you can find green pavements, small parks, flowers. Green spaces help to support new ecosystems and to cool down cities.

The open air swimming pool

You may not be able to swim in the river, but Lyon does have amazing open air swimming facilities; something Brussels is craving for.

You may not be able to swim in the river, but Lyon does have amazing open air swimming facilities; something Brussels is craving for.


This photo is taken in Villeurbane; Lyon has many squares with sports facilities, skate parks, ...

This photo is taken in Villeurbane; Lyon has many squares with sports facilities, skate parks, ...

There's a public zoo!

In the massive Parc de la Tête d'Or you can find a magnificent botanical garden and.. a zoo! Free of charge!

In the massive Parc de la Tête d'Or you can find a magnificent botanical garden and.. a zoo! Free of charge!

Why a critical mass is critical for a sustainable city. by Kwinten Lambrecht

Each last Friday night of the month cyclists worldwide take the streets for a bike tour in their city. The main goal? To raise awareness about the vulnerability of cyclists in the busy streets of cities that were transformed into car paradises tens of years ago. A full explanation on what the Critical Mass is about can be found in this nice Facebook Live video that Marco Ricorda aka Marcorecorder and I shot just before taking of on Friday 26 May.

Critical Mass Brussels - Lambyk

Why so critical?

After a stop at Place Meiser, where a cyclist was almost killed, the temperature was increasing rapidly. Not only because of the nice weather but also because the police got involved, gently asking us to move on. On the Montgomery roundabout (a nightmare for cyclists and pedestrians) two citizens, driving respectively a Porsche Cayenne and a Porsche Boxer, felt that they had lost enough of their precious time because of cyclists getting in their way. They started to shout and insult and even threatened a guy that next time he would 'kill him'.

The police got nervous, some photos were taken, a police officer completely lost it and started pushing and punching a young man who was holding a camera. The police officer in question, probably still massively stressed after Trump's visit, arrested the young man 'administratively' and yelled at other cyclists (we were more than 200) to "allez, vas-y rouler un peu". From her tone of voice you could feel that the police officer did not have a big affiliation with two wheels. Perhaps except during weekends. After some diplomatic interventions, the Porsche guys left (with roaring engines) and cycling citizens (with bells) went for a drink.

It wasn't the nicest and most human scene to witness but it brings me to a couple of points I'd like to raise:

  • The saying 'You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic' is (again) super relevant in this case. People often get mad, nervous or start honking when you are cycling in front of them, even when you are alone. Not all of them of course, but many car drivers went completely crazy because they had to wait for a couple of cyclists while each and every day they are stuck in traffic, usually alone, together with thousands of other cars. Where's the logic?
  • This kind of incident is absolutely not worth repeating since it's not a battle between cars and bikes, but human beings. I could easily opt to drive around in a car, because I'll be able to listen to music and have air-conditioned seats but many people opt for the bike because it is fast, reliable, healthy and good for the city. People underestimate the power of sustainable transport as a driver for growth, better air quality and less social costs for example. 
  • You cannot blame car drivers. They are being pushed in this comfortable position, with magnificent company car and even prepaid cards to purchase fuel by our own politicians who are supposed to serve the greater good. We can also add to that years of disinvestment in public transport and decent cycle lanes. Conclusion? Our governments have turned us into car addicts.
  • Last but not least: let's not create a 'community' of cyclists, because it will make 'us' look more like activists. Instead, talk about 'Brusselers using the bicycle'. We need to get rid of the bike as a symbol for hippies and green boys, because in the end anyone will enjoy the benefits of a cycling city.

See you at the next critical mass? 

Critical Mass Brussels - Lambyk

Cher Alain by Kwinten Lambrecht

Alain Courtois_Letter_Brief_Lettre.png

Cher Alain, dear Alain,

Look at you, standing bravely on a piece of no man's land between diesel fumes. Well done, you made it to the papers with a nice quote announcing that you would block the construction of cycle lanes on the dangerous Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, even if you had to block it physically.

I will be honest with you, cher Alain, I've had it with politicians of your generation. You are from the same angst generation as the ‘Brexiteers’ and Trump voters among us: conservative, anti-change and changing your opinion whenever it serves your personal interests. You are using fear as an argument to counter progress. 

You are a sports fan, given your previous role at the Belgian Football Association, but you don't want people to use the bike, exercise and stay healthy? You want, and I quote, 'traffic fluidity' in Brussels? You are the Alderman for sports, but you don't want people to move around actively? What is your agenda, Alain? 

I see, you are the Alderman of 'Seniors' too, perhaps they are more receptive to your messages like 'invasion of the bicycle' and 'bullying cars'? We all noticed on your infamous Facebook page that your Senior fans were cheering for you, and your tough language: 'Send that Flamand back to where he belongs!', 'Is he still sick?', 'Well done Alain!'. You are scoring goals for your voters, Alain, well done.

Cher Alain, let's try to use a different argument. What is your view on the impact of car use in our, your city? What about the lungs of your, our children and grandchildren? Do they deserve brown fluids in their lungs or traffic fluidity? Many cities around us, not far away even, are approaching public space, mobility and city life in a completely different way nowadays. Academics, visionary Mayors, researchers, citizens all over the world are striving for a better city. Why? Because we love living in cities, not driving. Thanks to politicians like you Brussels will never be able to lead by example on these matters, but will have to follow with years of backlog.

Cher Alain, how is still possible that you and your 18 other colleagues in other Brussels' municipalities can block or destroy holistic plans, based on arguments such as "that street should be 30cm wider, so we cannot construct cycle lanes"? Your generation of inward-looking politicians will make our generation, which is not afraid of change, lag behind for years to come. The consequences of your short-term 'status quo' policy will have a disastrous impact on us, citizens, and your, yes Alain, your city.


Collecting garbage with Leo Not Happy by Kwinten Lambrecht

Brussels is a fantastic place to live but apparently a great city for illegal garbage dumping as well. In many areas of Brussels people literally leave the house and can 'enjoy' a magnificent collection of garbage in front of their door. Not only 'normal' garbage like white plastic bags, no, also toilets, construction waste, food, cans, sofas, you name it!


It makes me very unhappy that fellow Brusselers are not ashamed to trash their own streets, to attract rats, to make this an unhappy place to live in. And that made 'Leo Not Happy' either. Leo Not Happy is the alter ego of Adel, an engaged citizen who wants to raise awareness about the garbage problem in Brussels. With his Facebook page, Leo Not Happy organises garbage collections with citizens from various areas in Brussels.

And with success! Because this time my (our!) neighbourhood was at the centre of attention. With 50 other Brusselers we took the streets for 2,5 hours from Lemonnier to Anneessens, Boulevard du Midi and Boulevard de l'Abattoir. It's sad to say, but it was quite a success: we found waste between cars, around trees, thousands of cigarette stubs (which are considered as 'legal garbage' I guess!) around bars, sofa's, beds, construction materials, glass,...

With the help of the cleaning services of the City of Brussels (!), who provided bags, gloves, a truck and other accessories we made Brussels clean for a while.

It was enormously rewarding to see citizens from all ages, languages, origins and even municipalities to fight for a cause. People that passed by even said 'thank you'. And that's what it's all about; changing the habits of citizens, making them think twice when they throw away their cigarette, almost re-educate them in a way that it will also benefit them. Combined with repressive measures such as cameras re-education should be a priority, and we thank Leo Not Happy for that!

Are our neighbours polluters? by Kwinten Lambrecht

I live in the centre of Brussels, the centre of Europe, Belgium's capital. My area is 'developing'; the Region is soon building separate cycle lanes and a huge park at Porte de Ninove. At this stage we can only 'hope' that these infrastructure interventions will make this a better place. Because today my area is dirty: our garden is basically a dump, the 'petite ceinture' is a highway without speed limits (and not one single politician cares about that) and our street consists of so-called garbage hotspots.

Basically, for two years now most of the corners of my street, the Boulevard de l'Abattoir, are polluted with anything you can imagine; from toilets, to rotten food, dismantled furniture, carpets, etc.

I have tried to reach out via Twitter multiple times to non-visionary politicians like Fadila Laanan and Karine Lalieux but without real success I mean, if you are serious about using social media in political communication then stop the self-promotion of the great things you are doing in life. No, be accountable, provide 'your' citizens with answers, with solutions. Only Alderwomen Els Ampe and Ans Persoons are taking social media seriously to communicate with citizens here in Brussels.

Lalieux (Alderwoman for cleanliness since 2006!) once replied to me by applauding her own initiatives, without focusing on the real issue; the same places are used to dump trash each and every day. During a 'district meeting' she also ignored the question, so I decided not to go anymore. She may be too busy with her second job as MP in the Federal Parliament. Can you imagine being a full time MP and having to take care of the cleanliness of a city with +100k inhabitants? That's bonkers!

The question remains; where does all the trash come from? My street should be mentioned somewhere in the dark circuits as 'the place to be' to get rid of your trash because one, or even five families together, cannot produce the trash that we find in our street. The point is: if you know that these places are known to be hotspots, then why is no one acting? It makes it even more difficult to respect the area you live in when you see all the garbage around you. We are literally wasting the future of kids who, until now, only grew up with the idea of trashy streets and could never play in a park on the other side of the street because it's reserved for the nasty habits of some Bruxellois and, who knows, people from far outside!

This situation sketched above probably rings a bell to many Brusselers so let's try to be constructive. Below you will find 8 suggestions to overcome the trash troubles that Brussels is facing today. Please provide more ideas in the comments section!

  1. Repression: use cameras, just like in Molenbeek, to observe these places for a couple of days and fine the criminals.
  2. Use underground waste containers and let people use it for free all the time.
  3. Organise 'exchange markets' for inhabitants where the things you don't need are exchanged for things that your neighbours offer.
  4. Organise more than two 'big waste' free collection rounds per year. Do it every month and communicate about is wisely.
  5. People don't know when it's time to put the blue, white or yellow bags outside: inform people with dedicated calendars.
  6. Provide incentives for citizens: make them bring green waste from fruits and veggies to so-called district compost centres; once they have composted 20 kilos of waste they will receive a free bag of potting soil to cultivate plants and flowers on their terrace or garden.
  7. Organise guerilla actions to show that polluting your neighbourhood is a no-go, just like here in Portugal or in London .
  8. Provide more public space; the parking dump on Boulevard Poincarré/Abattoir needs to be transformed into a green haven, as soon as possible.

5 communication tips for business owners in case of pedestrianisation by Kwinten Lambrecht

Loads of business owners are blaming the new pedestrian zone of Brussels for their decreasing revenue. The pedestrian zone is often framed as an apocalyptic monster that is making Brussels die. The truth is we had the 'lockdown', the attacks, a way lower number of tourists than usual, and so on. From a communication point of view the city of Brussels has clearly failed to meet the expectations of many Brusselers and business owners, it seems that there was no real communication plan in place and that backfired quickly.

Business owners are completely unhappy, which is partly understandable, but also have the responsibility to communicate themselves about the change in the centre of Brussels. Imagine that I opened a webshop without marketing it on social media and Google Adwords? I would be bankrupt within weeks.

1. Smile

A major change happened in your area, your city? Smile! Show your customers that you support the project, hand-out flowers on the day of the 'grand Piétonnier opening' and explain to your loyal customers how they can reach their favorite shop easily.

2. Don't only complain 

What's more annoying than people that complain about everything all the time? Stay positive, find solutions together with the City of Brussels (which made a huge mistake not communicating effectively at all about the pedestrian zone). But don't get carried away by hate and anger because you will scare people away.

3. Think visual

Create a leaflet explaining what is about to change or what is changing in the area. Give your shopwindow extra visibility by adding some nice slogans or sentences like: 'The coolest t-shirts of #pietonnierbxl!".

4. Provide incentives

Pay back the parking ticket of your customers, and if you can, try to even customise the parking reduction ticket with the logo of your business so your customers will remember you - a kind of partnership could be easily set-up with parking providers. Alternatively you could give people that come by bike or public transport a 5-10% reduction on their purchase.

5. Invest in digital communication

An investment of 100 EUR of paid advertising per month can already make the difference. Advertise to your (potential) customers how they can reach you and spread positive vibes via social media channels and Google Adwords for example. A minimum effort can help you to boost numbers againPrivejoke for example does an excellent job on that front, it's the only business in the centre from which I saw ads passing by!

EXTRA: Ask your colleagues!

Ask business owners in other parts of the city what they've done when a part of their area was pedestrianised! The Grasmarkt for example has been car-free for more than 4 years now, and businesses are florishing, and what about business owners from other cities like Ghent and Namur for example. What have they done to anticipate to the pedestrian zone?

The perception war pro-contra Piétonnier needs to stop, it's time for both business owners, citizens and the City to get its act together and to change the negative perception about a project that will increase our quality of life. Complaining will only make us more unattractive!

Will this be the future of Brussels? by Kwinten Lambrecht

Cars take up space, a lot of space. Very slowly cities are starting to understand that providing public space for human beings to live in will actually increase life quality and air quality. It will make you want to engage in conversations, it will make kids play with each other without constraints. Public space should be given back to the public. 

In Brussels, we are far from an ideal situation. But we're hopeful; Google Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Utrecht 20 years ago and you'll see the difference. Dutch cities teach us that a shift in public space will shift behaviour.

Let's look ahead at Brussels. Imagine the Chaussée de Charleroi or Waterloo or practically any 'Boulevard' in Brussels. 

Brussels today.

Brussels today.

Okay, there it is!

Now... Close your eyes and dream of what your city could look like. What should it consist of? Ready? Now open your eyes and scroll down.

Brussels tomorrow?

Brussels tomorrow?

A big thanks to Johanna Medvey for her illustrations of the beautiful houses and to Dami De Jonge for showing us what the future could look like.

Brussels: The anti-car lobby can cease to exist by Kwinten Lambrecht

I was quite amazed when I read this quote in an article about Brussels' congested roads in The Wall Street Journal. Traffic is a result of policy measures that block cars, Alderwoman for Mobility and Public works of Brussels Els Ampe explains. A missed opportunity for Ms. Ampe to add some nuance to the urban mobility debate, to defend her Piétonnier/car-free zone that "gave back the city to Brusselers". No, it's all the fault of an 'anti-car lobby' that is making the lives of cars and their owners miserable.

But now, I wonder, who or what is that anti-car lobby? Which obscure organisation is making it so difficult for cars to drive in the city centre? Which movement constructed hundreds of kilometres of cycle lanes, buses and trams everywhere, closed parking lots ... to make the lives of Brusselers more convenient? I would be excited to know the answer to this pertinent question. Who is pro-community living and contra people in their cars, mostly alone?


But who are they?! Anyway, I would like to thank the anti-car lobby for making this city so great; Brussels got rid off cars, full of green zones for kids to play in, fantastic air quality, public space, big car-free squares etcetera. Thank you, anonymous lobby!

Here are a couple of tangible results thanks to the actions of the "very powerful" anti-car lobby:

Also, please check the blogs called Destroy Brussels and Reasons My Car is Parked Here.

Mythbuster: 6 false accusations about the Piétonnier of Brussels by Kwinten Lambrecht

‘Piétonnier’ (the common name for Brussels' pedestrian zone) will undoubtedly be the Brussels' word of the year 2015, and probably that of 2016 and 2017 too. No 'tax shift' or 'cheating software' for us... Let's talk about the ‘Piétonnier’ instead! In June of this very year, the decision was finally made to give back a central part of the city to the people. This silver lining in the Brussels skyline would quickly fade away under the influence of bad rumours and press. Even on behalf of some of the coalition members, like Marion Lemesre, who pleaded recently for re-opening the traffic through Rue du Midi and via the esplanade situated at the Central Station.  If there's a God, please give us bright and visionary politicians...

Let's revert to the alarming accusations about the Piétonnier. I kept my eyes and ears open during recent months and weeks and I started to collect a first series of myths.

This argument is put forward by many people who are against the Piétonnier, as to illustrate the uselessness of "the thing". The question put forward here is: what should we do with public space in general? Do we need to cover it, or simply transform it into a big parking lot? Naturally, it rains in our country, but should this be a reason to get rid of scarce public space? No way ! Rain sounds better when it drops on trees than when it drops on top of cars.

Seriously? The centre of Brussels is already packed with parking lots, underground and on-street. Moreover, our politicians have even ensured that we can park for free anywhere from 18h onwards; which makes underground parking totally redundant (for now)! Let's try to be a serious:  parking is no big deal for those who really want to use their cars: around la Monnaie there are 2 car parks, at the Brouckère there are 2 car parks, at Rogier, around Arts-Loi and Midi Station, ... It's even possible to park near the very 'source' of the Piétonnier.

Several studies indicate that cyclists and pedestrians spend more money per capita than drivers. These costs are calculated on the basis of fuel consumption, parking tickets, the loss of time during traffic jams, etc. Moreover, cyclists and pedestrians are less in a hurry. So, dear merchants, think a little while: do these 30 or 40 parking spots in front of your door really make the difference ? I'm deemed to say no. Good communication, however, is vital to attract new business.

A lot depends on politics too: people need to be"pushed" towards sustainable mobility.

No, Brusselers (and people in general) are dirty. And they particularly love to showcase this in public space. If you live in Brussels, you know that illegal dumping of garbage seems to be a national sport in the capital. Waste is dumped everywhere and at any time, also on the Piétonnier. But change is coming: the city of Brussels has installed plenty of garbage bins and we even have smart bins now!  

For many citizens, the Piétonnier is nothing more than a closed street. Others consider it to be a start 'towards a new city', and visionary politicians think the same. It's time to create a new urban structure, where the focus lies on the human being. Numerous cities have forgotten that the most effective way to move exists since the beginning of times: walking, running, crawling, strolling. We'll have to conceive and design our cities accordingly in order to develop an entire new flow in this city.

Besides, the Piétonnier is a meeting place, a vital haven in a fast city where people live together without looking at each other. There is room for sports and play, for debate, to meet and mingle ...

The Piétonnier also has some remarkable side effects: air quality has, for example, much improved on the boulevard Anspach and one can even hear birds sing again...

I often hear this complaint. But would you have the same reaction after you've started to construct your house after one week: "I would like a new house, but not in this dump!" That doesn't really make sense, right? No, the final result matters.

Genre de vie: The happiness of urban life is being rediscovered by Kwinten Lambrecht

Genre de Vie is a documentary film about bicycles, cities and personal awareness. It looks at desired space and our own impact to the process of it. The film documents urban life empowered by the simplicity of the bicycle.

Today we are facing environmental issues more than ever. While architects, urban designers, policymakers and thinkers discuss the future of our cities, more and more people become aware of their own impact and use of space. Genre de Vie uses the bicycle to explore personal awareness and finds out how cycling contributes to the future livability of cities.

Is Brussels about to become a liveable city? by Kwinten Lambrecht

source: AmCham Belgium

source: AmCham Belgium

The American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium asked me to write an op-ed about urban mobility in Brussels for their newsletter/website. You can find the entire text below.

Brussels is a typical example of a car city that was built to meet drivers’ demands rather than to fulfill the criteria of a city that takes care of its citizens.

A weekend trip to the seaside, shopping or bringing your kids to school – our motorized friend appears as a most loyal machine that is able to bring us anywhere. As a result, many European cities were built taking into account the comfort of driving a car in the city: wide streets, central lanes and sometimes even highways were constructed. Brussels is a typical example of a car city that was built to meet drivers’ demands rather than to take care of its citizens.


A recent study by Agoria, the Belgian technology industry association, highlights that nine out of 10 people who work in Brussels need 25% more time to reach their destination today than in 2012. Brussels is getting clogged with cars. The fault lies not with the car commuters but rather a miscalculation by consecutive governments which supported and encouraged car use, financially as well as infrastructure-wise. The lack of alternatives, such as protected cycle lanes and car-sharing schemes as well as cuts in public transportation funding, makes it impossible to change this extremely dangerous situation.

Dangerous for companies because they're losing both time and efficiency, but also for Brussels' citizens. Air pollution accounts for thousands of premature deaths in Europe. In Brussels, concentrations of black carbon on large streets are usually 20 times higher than on car-free Sundays. Additionally, noise pollution also puts lives in danger due to higher stress levels.


(Re)designing a city on 'the human scale', as famous architect and urban designer Jan Gehl calls it, is a difficult task which requires brave and visionary politicians, responsible citizens and smart companies. The freshly elected Brussels-Capital Regional Government is pointing heads in the right direction with investments in cycle lanes, more public transportation and plans for 10,000 commuter parking spots around Brussels.

The main problem, however, is the municipalities (the Brussels-Capital Region counts 19), which are still powerful and often block smart decisions. Projects such as constructing new tram lines, organizing additional car-free squares or even creating cycle lanes can all be blocked or delayed by mayors that refuse to adopt a holistic approach when tackling mobility issues. For example, plans to build five new parking lots in the city center are completely counterproductive when you are developing a scheme that connects commuter parking sites to public transportation.

Gradually, many Bruxellois and I hope that we will enter the liveable city era, where the human being is at the center of attention. We need to move forward, raise citizens’ awareness on the health, social and financial costs of a 'car city' and at the same time continue to drive politicians in an alternative direction. Companies can play a big role as well, by offering a mobility budget instead of over-subsidised company cars (in Belgium €2763 per car per year) or by adopting greener behavior such as buying electric bikes and perhaps fishing where the fish are: on the Brussels labor market.