Traffic jam in Brussels, Belgium on October 10, 2017. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty … [+]
Motorists blocked streets in Brussels earlier today. So, what’s new? This time it was deliberate. It was a rolling protest against the city government’s award-winning Good Move plan, which aims to reduce motoring in Brussels and boost bicycling, walking, and public transit.
One hundred and fifty taxi drivers, 80 motorcyclists, and more than 50 private motorists took part in the go-slow, beeping horns as they nudged along. The crawl started at the busy Gare du Nord rail station, close to the office of Green politician Elke Van den Brandt, mobility minister for Brussels.
The Greens did well in last May’s regional, national and European elections, and they now form the second-largest party in the Brussels provincial government, just behind the traditionally dominant Socialists. Part of the Greens’ agreement to join the city government’s coalition was for a shake-up of transport, with less emphasis on catering to motorists. Van den Brandt is one of three Greens with a key role in the city government.
Brussels has long been plagued with traffic congestion and poor quality air. Today’s protest was organised by taxi organizations and pro-motoring groups.
Police had earlier urged travelers into Brussels to use bicycles or public transit rather than drive, thereby adding to the expected traffic delays.
The protestors urged the city government to reconsider planned initiatives that they say will almost wholly remove cars from Brussels.
Good Move, the mobility plan for Brussels, plans to remove cars from Toison d’Or Avenue and Waterloo … [+]
The city government’s Good Move mobility plan wants to reduce the number of car parking spaces, and close more streets to cars, reported Le Soir.
“It is still cars that account for most of our mobility,” said Lucien Beckers, president of Motor Defence, a group aiming to protect the interests of Belgian motorists.
“To want to remove [motor vehicles] is like wanting to eliminate nuclear power without having other sources of electricity,” said Beckers.
“You cannot do everything on foot,” he added.
Motor Defence is opposed to the 20km an hour speed limit introduced in the city’s historic center last year. It is also against removing motor vehicles from Toison d’Or Avenue and Waterloo Boulevard, two major thoroughfares in Brussels.
The pro-motoring group has demanded that Van den Brandt stop the “repression” of motorists, saying that her “fight against global warming” will not be won by alienating motorists.
Responding to today’s protest, Van den Brandt said: “I am not anti-car, I am pro-human.”
“Traffic jams cost us between €4 billion and €8 billion in economic value annually,” Van den Brandt said last year.
“We know that the lungs of children growing up near a traffic artery are less developed. The urgency to do something in Brussels is gigantic,” she stressed.
The Good Move mobility plan wants to create a more liveable city, with zero road deaths by 2030. The aim is to reduce car use by 24%, increase public transit by 34%, and quadruple bicycle use.
Fifty neighborhoods will be transformed into low car traffic zones.
The plan won the 2020 edition of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) Award. The SUMP Award is handed out by the European Commission through Polis, the network of European Cities and Regions working together on innovative transport solutions.
I was Press Gazette’s Transport Journalist of the Year, 2018. I’m also an historian – my most recent books include “Roads Were Not Built for Cars” and “Bike Boom”, both