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Cyclists sceptical of plan for bridge between European parliament and Schuman

22:16 16/01/2023

Plans to build a pedestrian and cyclist bridge between the European parliament and the Schuman roundabout are being met with scepticism from some cyclists, who do not see it as a solution to the congestion issues facing the area.

“The real problem is that we have a European quarter full of cars, and this bridge will not solve that,” a represenative from the cycling association of EU staff told Bruzz.

The idea of the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists is to provide them with a smoother connection between the Berlaymont building and the European parliament.

Currently, anyone who wants to cycle from Place Luxembourg to Schuman has to cross the dangerously busy Rue Belliard and Rue de la Loi.

The Brussels government wants to make that route easier and shorter with a bridge leading from the Schuman train station to the esplanade in front of the parliament.

An agreement to that extent was already signed back in 2019, by both parliament and Infrabel, the Belgian railway operator with authority over the train station.

The bridge is planned to follow the railway line between Schuman and Brussels-Luxembourg and would be built directly on top of railway embankments.

The project is still in its infancy, with a feasibility study yet to be carried out, but the EU Cycling Group – which represents more than 2,700 cycling staff from the various EU institutions – is already voicing its reservations.

“The Schuman-Luxembourg stretch is widely used by EU officials by bike and every time you are confronted with that immense urban highway,” chairman Oliver Kozak told Bruzz.

“We fear that this will be a very expensive project. The funds that will be spent on this would be better spent on infrastructure works that cyclists and walkers in the European Quarter can really use.”

Kozak pointed out that some of the main benefits were only to the very high-ranking officials and politicians, who would be able to use the bridge instead of taking a chauffeured car.

“But for everyday cyclists and walkers it brings little – this bridge is not the solution to the real problem, which is that we have a European district full of cars,” said Kozak.

“In the middle of the city, we have two highways (Rue de la Loi and Rue Belliard). Something like that doesn't belong here. Instead of improving the existing road infrastructure and making it safer for cyclists, they want to build a bridge over it. By leaving the existing car infrastructure untouched, they are actually encouraging car use in the city centre.”

There are also concerns about the bridge being shared by both cyclists and pedestrians alike, which Kozak worries will lead to conflicts. His suggestion is to instead redesign other parts of the routes that EU cycling officials already use.

“We often take side streets off Rue de la Loi and Rue Belliard, but these streets are often still full of cars and for pedestrians the pavements are sometimes very narrow,” Kozak said.

“As a cyclist, you are then often caught between buses and taxis. Most cyclists find that unpleasant, and it feels unsafe. So there is a lot of room for improvement there.”

Kozak has been working in the European quarter for eight years, during which time he said he has seen numerous improvements for cyclists in Brussels.

“When I arrived here, I almost looked like a kamikaze as a cyclist – I had to ride between cars all the time, it was dodgy. Now I can use bike lanes almost on my entire commute,” Kozak said.

In recent years, the Brussels government has removed some lanes from Rue de la Loi and Rue Belliard to increase safety for non-motorists.

“The cycling infrastructure that has taken its place we use very often – it's a positive evolution that may continue,” said Kozak.

Written by Helen Lyons