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!

Latest report on cycling injuries in Brussels by Kwinten Lambrecht

The latest report on cycling injuries has just been published by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety (picked up on it via Brusselnieuws). Not surprising, the amount of injured cyclists is increasing year by year. Also the amount of deadly traffic accidents (involving cars or pedestrians) has increased from 45 to 58 victims.

The chart below shows that the number of injuries has increased from only 80 reported injuries to approximately 460 in 2013 (+500%). The only reason our Secretary of State for Mobility, Melchior Watheletet Junior, could possibly think of was the exponential growth of cyclists on our roads. Well, well...

cycling injuries

Source: BIVV

Biking in Brussels: Five doubts and bummers by Kwinten Lambrecht

Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique recently published some interesting facts about intra-Brussels mobility. In the article called A Bruxelles, le vélo a encore du chemin à faire La Libre summed up the different transport methods in Brussels, below the result in a simple chart:

Brussels' Mobility

Brussels' Mobility

The statistics are quite striking; even for a small distance Les Bruxellois still prefer to use their car instead of green(er) mobility. However, it may be worth to have a closer look at the reasons behind this mentality. Below I've summed up five doubts and five bummers about biking in Brussels. The doubts incorporate the incentives that still outweigh the use of bikes, let's say the working points. The bummers on the other hand are the fundamentals, the arguments that put a giant 'nay' label on even considering biking in Brussels. Also working points I guess.

The doubts

  • Public transport in Brussels cannot follow the expanding number of commuters anymore, some communes are not well reachable (partly Ixelles, Woluwe, Uccle,...) and it's difficult to count on STIB's punctuality
  • Old(er) people tend to use the car more often for small distances, while our generation does not even consider buying a car anymore
  • Taxes: it is often more beneficial for employers to provide a car instead of extra net salary
  • A holistic mobility approach is often not possible, due to the absurdity of having 19 different communes (and stubborn Mayors) and (sometimes more than) three different governments operating in the tiny Brussels Region
  • The power of the motor-industry and the entire lobby which is strongly represented (main argument: 'the economy!')

The bummers

  • Not enough bike lanes (since 2009 only 23 kilometers were constructed, of which only 11 kilometers is separated from the road
  • The Brussels Jungle: drivers will always take advantage of public space when they can. Parking on bike lanes is common practice
  • Brussels' drivers are aggressive when they cannot move passed bikers. Bikers are often being hunted by cars. There's no biking culture (yet) in Brussels, while this is the case in other countries and major cities
  • The lack of public transport integration and cooperation between the different companies like STIB-MIVB, TEC, SNCB, De Lijn etcetera
  • Biking is way too dangerous because bikers are extremely vulnerable. Without any assertiveness you simply cannot survive. As a result you will barely notice children using a bike in Brussels. And this is a very bad sign because the earlier you start biking, the faster it becomes a daily habit and lifestyle