Six weeks after the introduction of the Brussels' Good Move mobility plan, the Neutral Union for the Self-Employed (SNI) fears an "economic exodus" from the Capital Region to Flanders and Wallonia.
A survey of 150 SMEs and self-employed traders in the 19 municipalities showed that nearly two-thirds are considering leaving the Capital Region following the implementation of Good Move, which changed Brussels' traffic flow to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over cars. More than nine in ten traders in the region call traffic "even more difficult" than before.
"This is a disaster for the vast majority of the self-employed and SMEs," the SNI said in response to the survey. "If two-thirds of them already found traffic difficult before Good Move, more than 90% feel it is even worse now."
Additionally, 87% of surveyed traders are already seeing a negative impact on their operations, they indicated. Half of them saw their sales drop and three-quarters said that deliveries are being delayed more often.
Finding a parking spot
Finding a parking space is also a concern; about 75% of traders said that finding a spot is now "difficult to very difficult," said the SNI. "How will you attract customers if they have to drive around for minutes to find a parking space?"
These traffic and parking problems obviously have an influence on the activity of Brussels businesses. Last week, the owner of famous fine-dining restaurant Le Rabassier in the Brussels' Sablon district announced it will soon leave the area, as clients can no longer reach the premises because of Good Move.
"My customers tell me they will no longer come to my restaurant as it is too complicated," said Christophe Durieux, owner of the restaurant, which is located on the Rue de Rollebeek – the middle point of at least six bus and tram stops in the well-connected area. From next month, he will open his restaurant at another location in the upmarket commune of Uccle, which is a 15-20 minute drive outside Brussels city centre.
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According to the survey, nearly three in ten traders reported a more than 20% drop in turnover. More than three-quarters will postpone or even abandon planned investments while staff redundancies and bankruptcy are already feared in 15% of cases. The biggest issues are reported in the municipalities closest to the city centre, such as Brussels-City, Ixelles, Etterbeek and Anderlecht.
However, these figures should also be viewed in the context of the current economic situation. Even the trade union behind the survey acknowledged that the current energy crisis is also contributing to many traders' financial difficulties.
Still, the SNI believes that the Good Move plan cannot continue as it is and calls on the Brussels authorities to listen to the calls of the economic partners and quickly modify the new mobility plan "to avoid an economic exodus to other regions."