urban mobility

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.