Six Brussels communes are refusing to accept new digital advertising panels on their territory, as part of a deal made by advertising agency JCDecaux with Brussels region mobility minister Pascal Smet. JCDecaux has promised to convert one-third of its Villo hire bicycles to electric bikes by the summer of this year. In return, it wants to install digital advertising in one-third of the locations where it already has static panels at Villo stations.
Smet has agreed to the terms, in the hope of attracting more people to the use of bicycles in the city. The existing Villo bikes, users say, are heavy and cumbersome, and not particularly suited to the more hilly terrain of the capital.
But six communes, led by Ixelles, have expressed an unwillingness to accept the new ad panels. “They use up a lot of energy, and are a danger in terms of road safety,” according to Yves Rouyet, Ixelles councillor for town planning, sitting for green party Ecolo. Ixelles is due under the plan to become home to 28 digital panels.
“Above all there are screens everywhere,” he said. “Children and adults are constantly gazing at their phones and tablets. We’re not going to add even more digital screens to the landscape.”
According to an investigation by Bruzz, each digital panel uses up about half as much energy as the average Brussels household, and far more than existing panels, which consist of a light-box with posters.
Opposition has since been joined by five other communes: St-Gilles, Forest, Watermael-Boisfort, Etterbeek and Schaerbeek. “We asked for the advice of the police,” Schaerbeek councillor Frédéric Nimal (Défi) told Bruzz. “We cannot accept advertising panels that distract the attention of drivers.”
The communes are not, however, in a position to decide. That is the responsibility of the region, although any decision can later be challenged before the Council of State.
The Brussels Times