On Sunday 20th of September Brussels celebrated car-free day for the 15th time. The event takes place annually as part of European mobility week, during which numerous events are organised across Europe on the theme of mobility and sustainable transport.
In the Brussels region, cars (except for buses and taxis) were banned in the city between 9h30 and 19h on this special Sunday:
The day is always a big success: People are out and about on foot, by bikes or on roller blades, children are playing on the streets and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. The air is cleaner to breathe. Usually, the weather is nice too, and this year was no exception.
On one day a year, infrastructure that is normally dedicated to cars is given to people:
In some places in Brussels, the difference to a normal day is enormous. Take Rue de la Loi, one of the main traffic arteries in Brussels’ European quarter, for example:
The new pedestrian area seems very popular, and it sure was busy on the car-free day as well:
The day is a good occasion to go on cycle rides, as streets are empty of cars and much nicer to cycle on. Some cycling tours were organised for the public this year as well. I took part in a cycle tour in Schaerbeek, organised by the local cycling association Gracq as part of the Belgian “heritage days” that took place the same weekend.
The cycling tour attracted lots of people, and it was a nice chance to get to know Schaerbeek a bit better.
The car-free day has its charms, but it is also a challenging day in terms of getting around. There are many inexperienced road users, including children, out on the streets, and as the rules on the roads are suddenly changed without cars there, people do not know how to behave in traffic. This can lead to many dangerous situations, and especially cyclists need to be patient on the roads and take things more slowly on the day.
But over all, the car-free day is a nice way to give the city back to the people, even if it is for only one day. It is a good reminder of how much space and infrastructure is actually given to cars in cities, especially in Brussels.