Sensational stories of car-free cities are just that: sensational. For the time being.
WILL BRUSSELS BECOME A CAR-FREE CITY? NOT QUITE. NOT YET.
A truly sensationalist headline in The Atlantic today says, ‘Europe’s most congested city contemplates going car-free.’
Richard Wellings, director of transport at the Institute of Economic Affairs compounded the hype by tweeting, ‘Brussels to pioneer EU transport plans by banning cars from its city centre*.’
And the recently elected mayor Yvan Mayeur has been widely quoted recently saying, ‘Ban the car from central Brussels.’
So far however Mayeur’s plans are limited to pedestrianizing part of Anspachlaan, more or less the only main road running inside the Pentagon little ring road.
He wants to shut off a 300m stretch between Place de Brouckere – where Anspachlaan seperates off to connect the Pentagon – and Beurs, the square outside the Stock Exchange.
The idea is due to be voted on by the city council at the end of the month. Exactly what he has planned after that is – officially – anybody’s guess.
It’s easy to see why Brussels falls victim to this kind of scaremongering. It does have pretty strident anti-car form. The car-free Sunday it has held for the last twenty years means anybody caught driving within the entire capital region inside the R0 ring road is liable for a fine.
* actually the European Commission wants to ‘phase out’ conventionally fuelled vehicles from cities by 2050.
postscript: The Atlantic’s headline on Brussels has nothing on the recent fat wodge of internet stories on Hamburg’s plan to ban cars. By 2034! There have been hundreds. In fact, while large areas of the city centre will be pedestrianized – in twenty years’ time – cars will still have access (if they still exist). It’s not clear why the rash of stories appeared now – the ‘Green Network Plan’ was announced last October… Meanwhile, Magma Innovations is telling car manufacturers to prepare for the ‘car-less cities of the future’. CEO Robin Daniels cites Madrid which said in December that 24 major streets would be at least partially pedestrianized. He doesn’t mention Burgos which suffered five days of rioting when it tried to implement a similar idea last week and was forced to cancel its plans.