Brussels plans to increase car-free days

Brussels plans to increase car-free days

The Brussels Region is sounding out the municipalities on the idea of ​​increasing car-free days. The question of cost is a major obstacle.

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Lhe car-free day takes place every Sunday between 16 and 22 September. Many Brussels residents gladly mark the date in their diary. Between 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., users of bicycles, scooters and rollerblades have a great time in the capital. As for the cars, they remain stationary. Changing mentalities and initiating a debate on mobility in the city are the main objectives. The idea of ​​multiplying car-free days is not new. In 2008, the former Brussels Minister for Mobility Pascal Smet ( was in favor of it. In April 2019, Parliament approved a resolution which aims to develop the concept to combat air pollution. The current Minister of Mobility Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) in turn puts the project on the table. The 19 mayors received a letter on Monday urging them to reflect on its practical feasibility. The ecologist asks them to identify the issues in terms of impact and cost.

“We invite you to discuss the results of your reflections and their administrative and budgetary impact during a digital meeting on June 30 at 2 p.m.,” Elke Van den Brandt wrote to them. The Minister does not conduct a survey for form. Impossible to advance the project without the municipalities. The latter must authorize the closure to traffic and issue derogation cards. They also organize many local activities. Finally, more importantly, they coordinate the event via the local police. However, such mobilization represents a high cost. Several mayors are not overflowing with enthusiasm for the proposal as in Auderghem, Schaerbeek or Woluwe-Saint-Pierre. “This requires a very important administrative work for the municipality”, argues the Auderghemoise Sophie de Vos (Challenge). “Is this really the urgent priority in the face of all the challenges in the area? », Launches the Schaerbeekoise Cécile Jodogne (Challenge). However, none of the mayors surveyed close the door straight away. The issue of cost is likely to be the main stumbling block.

Public finances under pressure

The local representatives consider it necessary for the Region to put its hand in its pocket. This is for example the case of Ridouane Chahid (Evere, PS), Fabrice Cumps (Anderlecht, PS) or Boris Dilliès (Uccle, MR). “As far as I’m concerned, I immediately asked the question of the cost. It’s not a definitive no, but we want to objectify the situation, ”says, for his part, Benoît Cerexhe (Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Les Engagés). At government level, a memorandum drawn up by the cabinet of Elke Van den Brandt was discussed on 22 April and 25 May. She outlines three scenarios for 2023: one day per month, one per month during the summer and one four Sundays per year. The document does not currently provide for financial compensation for the municipalities. The June 30 meeting may change the situation. The deplorable state of regional finances does not play in favor of the project, however.

It would also remain to get the municipalities to agree on the concept. The car-free day must take place on the weekend, some elected officials decide. On the contrary, Uccle offers to test it during the week. “It’s more complicated to organize, but it can really do a lot of teaching,” according to Boris Dilliès.

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