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Bois de la Cambre: Petition and counter-petition as car-free debate heats up
Petitions are circulating as campaigners join the debate over keeping Brussels’ park Bois de la Cambre car-free until at least the end of August.
City of Brussels mayor Philippe Close (PS) is considering making the popular park permanently free of traffic over the summer.
Already partly closed to traffic at weekends, since 19 March the boulevards that loop around the large green space have been car-free to give park users additional space.
During the lockdown, pedestrians and cyclists have been prioritised with an increase in cycle lanes, “slow streets” and car-free areas. For a city with a long-established love affair with the car, it’s a move that some would like to make permanent.
A petition is circulating asking city authorities to make Bois de la Cambre car-free for good. Almost 4,000 people have currently signed up to the call to keep roads inside the park closed. It argues that the increase in home-working during coronavirus is likely to continue, making it necessary for city dwellers to have “accessible green space” during the week. “A park that essentially becomes a racetrack Monday to Friday, is anachronistic,” it says.
Brussels expat Aleksandra Lun is one city resident supporting the traffic-free petition. She believes reducing traffic would lower pollution in the city. The writer and translator, originally from Poland, told the Bulletin: “During the lockdown, the social distancing measures finally transformed the busy speedways of Bois de la Cambre into peaceful wide avenues. In this new calm and pollution-free green area, children play safely, elderly rest, runners, bikers or roller-skaters practice their sport, animal lovers walk their pet and others relax with family or friends.”
The petition’s claim that the accessibility of Brussels would not be compromised is refuted in a counter petition launched by Uccle’s MR party on Sunday evening, reports RTBF. No to the total closure of Bois de la Cambre traffic was initiated by Uccle councillor Diane Culer and Brussels-Capital Region member of parliament Aurélie Czekalski.
The pair denounce what they call “a unilateral decision” by the Brussels mayor. They claim the park is an importance access route and Uccle residents are the population most impacted by its closure. “Closing Bois de la Cambre beyond the period of confinement measures is environmental and economic nonsense,” they said.
Boasting ponds and the idyllic Robinson’s Island, the 124-hectare Bois de la Cambre was once part of the Sonian Forest before being annexed by the city in 1842. Since 2012, some of its routes have been closed to cars on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Photo: BELGA/Paul-Henri Verlooy