Brussels inner city largely car-free from August

Brussels inner city largely car-free from August
Brussels during Car Free Sunday. Credit: Orlando Whitehead

The City of Brussels located within the small ring road will become a low traffic zone from 16 August in favour of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport with the ambition of creating a more livable environment in the heart of the region.

The Brussels College of Councillors approved the new circulation plan for the “Vijfhoek (Pentagon) and aims to use one-way streets and traffic filters to keep out unnecessary transit traffic (which accounts for 42% of today’s vehicles), without isolating the various neighbourhoods, including Sablon, the Royal quarter and the Marolles, among others.

“The circulation plan will have a positive impact on both traffic safety and the accessibility of the Vijfhoek,” Bart Dhondt, city councillor for mobility, who proposed the plan, said.

Brussels inner city, or the “Vijfhoek”. Credit: City of Brussels

He explained that the thousands of cars that transit through the city centre to surrounding areas every day not only make the roads unsafe, they also create stress, traffic jams and air pollution.

Accessing the inner city by car remains possible but motorists whose final destination is outside the “Vijfhoek” are guided to the inner ring road. “With the circulation system, we solve this problem: we give the city back to the people who want to be here, who live or stay here.”

A new parking plan will be introduced with adjusted rates to bring long-term parkers to public car parks, in turn ensuring there is less transit traffic in the streets, while the number of shared parking spaces will be increased.

Encouraging alternative modes of transport

As part of the plan, the city is also looking to tackle accident-prone zones to increase the safety of pedestrians in the “Vijfhoek”.

This includes fixing the intersections between various streets that lead to the small ring road, including Port de Flandre near the canal, Rue des Cendres near Rogier and those between Rue Royale and Rue de la Loi.

“The City of Brussels’ plans will provide safer school environments, quieter residential areas and cleaner air in the inner city,” Regional Mobility Minister Elke Von den Brandt said.

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The space that is currently occupied by transit traffic will either be transformed for the creation of new infrastructure for cyclists, including increasing the number of bicycle stands and other parking possibilities.

In line with projects in other parts of the region, such as one in Montgomery for which works will begin at the end of this month, the bicycle infrastructure between Rue de la Loi and Bruxelles Chapelle as well as Boulevard Emile Jacqmain is set to be improved.

A cycling path in Brussels. Photo by Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times

To boost the mobility options for people travelling to and from the “Vijfhoek”, the public transport plan has been strengthened, including the increased frequency of metro 6, of which many stations are located on the small ring road, as well as the reintroduction of bus 46, from Porte d’Anderlecht to the Northern quarter.

New tramlines will connect Rogier to Neder-Over-Heembeek and Belgica to the central station, while the new metro line 3 will connect the city centre with the south and the north, further improving the accessibility to the city centre.

Local participation

The locals living in the “Vijfhoek” are at the centre of the new scheme, and the city is allowing them to have their say in changes in the mobility plan and changes made to infrastructure based on their needs.

“The inhabitants of Brussels are experts we can trust every day because they know what is best for their neighbourhood,” city councillor for Civic Participation Arnaud Pinxteren said. “They have had their say on mobility in the Pentagon and this has served as a solid basis for the circulation plan we are proposing today.”

This participation will continue after the introduction of the plan on 16 August, especially when it comes to monitoring traffic for further improvements to be made, and for the filling in of space that will become available following the various interventions.

The scheme will be presented to the municipal council on Monday 21 February, together with a series of accompanying measures.

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