King Car Deposed On Rue Royale As Works Start To Remove Motor Traffic From Central Brussels
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Works started today to remove motor traffic from strategic streets in downtown Brussels. Concrete dividers were lowered into place to create cycleways that will protect cyclists from the two-way trams that will continue to ply the thoroughfare.

Motorists will no longer be able to use any section of Rue Royale, one of the major boulevards of central Brussels. By mid-August Rue Royale will be open only to pedestrians, public transit, emergency vehicles, cyclists and micromobility users.

Approved in 2020, the works are part of the ambitious “Good Move” mobility plan for the Brussels-Capital Region.

The removal of private motorists between Rue de la Loi and Rue de Louvain is in addition to similar removals on key streets such as Rue du Congrès.

Avenue de Stalingrad will be for one-way motor traffic only and Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés will be pedestrianized.

Brussels has long been plagued with traffic congestion and poor quality air. The city government’s Good Move mobility plan aims to reduce motor traffic and, as well closing streets to motor traffic, the number of car parking spaces in downtown will also be reduced.

The plan was spearheaded by Green politician Elke Van den Brandt, mobility minister for Brussels. The Greens did well in the 2021 regional, national and European elections, and they form the second-largest party in the Brussels provincial government, just behind the traditionally dominant Socialists.

Part of the Greens’ agreement to join the city government’s coalition was for a shake-up of transport, with less emphasis on catering to motorists, not something that all welcome.

“It is still cars that account for most of our mobility,” said Lucien Beckers, president of Motor Defence, a group aiming to protect the interests of Belgian motorists.

“To want to remove [motor vehicles] is like wanting to eliminate nuclear power without having other sources of electricity,” said Beckers.

“You cannot do everything on foot,” he added.

The pro-motoring group has demanded—to no avail—that Van den Brandt stop the “repression” of motorists, saying that her “fight against global warming” will not be won by alienating motorists.

“I am not anti-car, I am pro-human,” Van den Brandt said last year.

“Traffic jams cost us between $4 billion and $8 billion in economic value annually,” she added.

“We know that the lungs of children growing up near a traffic artery are less developed. The urgency to do something in Brussels is gigantic,” she stressed.

The Good Move mobility plan wants to create a more liveable city, with zero road deaths by 2030. The aim is to reduce car use by 24%, increase public transit by 34%, and quadruple bicycle use. Fifty neighborhoods will also be transformed into low car traffic zones.

Jill Warren, CEO of the Brussels-headquartered European Cyclists’​ Federation said of the start of today’s works: “As cycling advocates and as a Brussels-based organisation, ECF welcomes infrastructure improvements that enable more and safer cycling in the city.”

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