Pro and anti-car ban campaigners face off in Bois de la Cambre

Pro and anti-car ban campaigners face off in Bois de la Cambre
© Belga

Pro and anti-car ban demonstrators will take to Brussels' Bois de la Cambre on Tuesday, seeking to sway public opinion as a tug-of-war over a lockdown vehicle ban in the capital's largest park continues.

The two camps have called on sympathisers to come to join them for an afternoon in the park, to make their views heard and hike public pressure on officials negotiating whether to keep or lift the ban.

Amid Belgium's first coronavirus lockdown, the City of Brussels shut vehicle traffic out of the Bois de la Cambre in an effort to provide more space for social-distancing and outdoor activities.

The organisation Make The Park for People Again is calling on those supporting the car ban to come for a ride or stroll-along from midday.

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"We demand that the Bois de la Cambre remains a green and relaxing space," the organisers wrote on Facebook. "We need all of you to protect our right to this green lung!"

Around 1,000 people have responded to the event on Facebook, in which a wealth of community and environmental organisations are also taking part, including BRAL, Greenpeace, Fietsersbond, Bruxsel'Air as well as Critical Mass, a community-ran organiser of massive bike, skate ride-alongs throughout the city, taking place each last Friday of the month.

"The Bois de la Cambre is not a motorway, it is a park," organisers told Bruzz. "The coronavirus crisis has underlined the need to make recreation space available for citizens."

Organisations are urging participants to avoid gatherings and to stick to biking, jogging or otherwise putting to use the vehicle roads wrapped around the park while respecting the coronavirus rules.

Counter-protesters: 'The park is for everyone'

On the other camp, a counter-demonstration is being led by an anti-car ban collective launched by local residents and traders who opposed the "unilateral" vehicle shut-out imposed by the City of Brussels (1000).

"We all have one thing in common: we are affected in our daily lives by the closure of the forest to car traffic on weekdays and Saturdays," they wrote online.

The park, the largest in the metropolitan area of the capital spills into the leafy Sonian Forest and is crisscrossed by several motor roads, including key ones which link it to the Brussels ring road.

"The Bois de la Cambre is for everyone, not just for the supporters of soft mobility," the group told Bruzz. Over 2,000 testimonials of people affected by the car ban have been collected by the collective, according to their website.

Counter-protesters are called to gather in the park's Chalet Robinson and to march towards the central Louise neighbourhood in a loop alongside Avenue Diane, with organisers also setting up a pick-up point for those wanting to brandish protest signs.

"A 15-minute walk out there and back are enough to have an impact!" one organiser wrote in the collective's Facebook group.

The demonstrations come just days after a court ruled in favour of Uccle —which borders the park— ordering the City of Brussels to reallow vehicles into the park, which is part of its territory.

The court ordered Brussels to lift the "apparently illegal shutdown of vehicle circulation" in the southern part of the park, near the pond, within 30 days or risk daily €2,500 fines for every day after the deadline.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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