Brussels pedestrian zone overrun with bikes and e-scooters

Brussels pedestrian zone overrun with bikes and e-scooters
The pedestrianised Place de Brouckère sees bicycles and electric scooters take over. Credit: TBT archive

The centre of Brussels that was pedestrianised in 2015 is crawling with bicycles and electric scooters, whose users rarely respect the speed limit of 6 kilometres per hour. More than 250 police reports have been drawn up since last Wednesday.

Bourse to Place de Brouckère was meant to become a paradise for walkers, as the entire area was pedestrianised. However, years after it was optimised for pedestrians, it has become a “playground for speed bike and scooter enthusiasts”, Le Soir reports.

Police, who moderate the area by bike, have had to intervene so often that they now fear they are dominating the area. Those who drive the fastest set the tone for other road users, explains principal inspector David Stevens, head of the Brussels-Ixelles police bicycle brigade.

“As the car is gone, the fastest new road user takes the dominant role. These are bicycles and scooters. However, in pedestrian zones, they are not authorised to drive at more than 6 km/h,” he says.

A rule that few road users tend to respect. In 2021, the brigade gave out more than 1,000 fines for spreading, Stevens said. “As we no longer have to check the cars, this year we will triple our speed checks. By the end of the year, I hope to have 3,000 reports drawn up.”

Safer space

More checks will also be carried out on the side of Chaussée d’Ixelles and police will be paying more attention to passing by red lights. “Complaints are beginning to reach us. The cycling brigade is therefore taking action.”

Since last Wednesday, the cycling brigade has already imposed more than 250 fines against speeding cyclists.

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However, they do not use radars to determine whether a cyclist is driving at 7 rather than 6 kilometres per hour. “We base ourselves on behaviour. If the cyclist puts other users in danger, they are intercepted. But we are not going to embark on a chase which would further increase the danger.”

The price you pay

If you are caught speeding, you will be charged with a €174 fine. In case the offender disputes the punishment, the case may end in court.

“The offenders are of all ages and come from all social classes. Some have a driver’s license, some don’t,” Steven explains. “But the problem is not related to knowledge of the highway code. It's just a lack of courtesy, common sense and self-respect.”

The brigade has since been contacting schools in Brussels to educate youth about the risks of speeding. For adults, however, the fines will have to do: “In 75% of the cases, it is only the wallet that changes behaviour.”

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