As the party attempts to move on from the row with its Flemish counterpart over the new Budget Secretary, French-speaking liberals Mouvement Réformateur (Reformist Movement) have unveiled their alternative to the Good Move mobility plans put forward by the ruling majority in the Brussels-Capital region.
As staunch critics of the controversial mobility plans, which prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over drivers while aiming to make the Capital Region largely car-free, MR has offered its own alternative to Good Move.
According to La Libre Belgique, Brussels MR deputies David Weytsman and Anne-Charlotte d’Ursel intend to unveil a series of new investments and developments, based around the concept of “finding prestige and bringing beauty back to the city.” All this, without reducing the room for cars.
Focus on Avenue Louise
The deputies have worked alongside Brussels-based urban planner Bruno Clerbaux on a flagship proposal: the renovation of Avenue Louise, starting from Bois de la Cambre. The last major redevelopment works took place in 1958.
The deputies lament that the original 50s upgrades prioritised moving the greatest number of vehicles towards the Grand Place and city centre. Unlike Good Move, which focuses on eliminating high density of traffic, the MR deputies want to simply beautify the existing infrastructure.
“The idea is to set up Avenue Louise as Leopold II had designed it before he became King. He wanted to create one of the most beautiful avenues in Europe. We wanted to give a new lustre to this masterly axis, restore its symmetry,” said Weytsman.
The MR deputies criticise the tendency of the Brussels government to rush projects, such as Flagey in Ixelles, Dumon in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Rogier in Brussels, or Place du miroir in Jette. “Rather ugly places with little vegetation,” says d’Ursel.
Beautifying Brussels roads
The deputies state that they want to “attract residents with a high contributory capacity” and create added value for new real estate for property owners in the surrounding area.
While the Good Move plans would see Avenue Louise give way to pedestrians, the plans by MR want to widen access for all travellers, including pedestrians, cyclists and cars.
“There will be a widened sidewalk with a magnificent promenade in the middle, local and fast cycle paths, but also local roads for mobility for cars and transit roads,” said Wetysman.
The Good Move plan is facing stiff opposition in some areas for the limits it places on local traffic, which protestors say is negatively affecting businesses and forcing traffic into high congestion areas. In October, protestors tore down traffic signs put up as part of the plan in Schaerbeek, angry over the ban on cars.
Cars to remain king
The Liberal politicians believe that their Avenue Louise plan, and others like it, can preserve the role of cars in the city while increasing pedestrian access. The deputies want to place expressways for cars underground.
All transit roads would operate in a long tunnel, with the lowest levels reserved for the fastest traffic, and an upper level for underground parking. Above ground, on the surface, the long road would feature bicycle highways, paths, a tram connection, and botanical walking routes.
All this, the Weystman says, would cost €100 million, a suspiciously low sum. “The project was designed to be as inexpensive as possible. We don’t have to dig a lot since the void already exists, in part.”
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This project, as well as plans for the complete redevelopment of Sablon, Rue de la Loi, and Avenue Houba de Strooper in Laeken, will be included on the MR manifesto for the 2024 elections.
Even if they manage to convince voters of these ambitious plans, the deputies will still need to deal with urban planning and budget requirements. Keen to make the proposal participatory, the plans have already been unveiled to local residents. Beyond 2024, it will become clear if there is a local appetite for these alternative plans.
The plans for the redevelopment of Avenue Louise can be viewed on Weystman's website.