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Protestors on both sides of traffic debate take to Bois de la Cambre
Both those in favour of keeping the avenues around Bois de la Cambre car-free and those against it held actions today in the park. While each side was keen to talk to the media, there were no conflicts between the two groups.
Several organisations, including citizen’s action group Bral, are inviting anyone who thinks that Bois de la Cambre should remain car-free to come along every Tuesday for Reclaim the Park. The idea is to get as many people as possible enjoying the park at once, whether walking, running, cycling or playing with the kids.
The other side, however – led by Collectif Contre la Fermeture Du Bois de la Cambre – supports a court decision last week that forces Brussels-City to re-open the roads in the large park to motorists. They, too, want to march through the park every Tuesday.
‘Tainted with illegality’
The Bois de la Cambre borders the Sonian Forest and yet is in the territory of Brussels-City, whose border snakes along Avenue Louise and takes in all of the park. During the coronavirus lockdown last spring, the avenues cutting through Bois de la Cambre were closed to traffic to allow walkers and cyclists more space for recreation.
Brussels-City wanted to keep the situation as it was all summer, but opened up part of the northern end to motorists in capitulation to demands from the neighbouring municipality of Uccle. That municipality is the most affected by shutting down the avenues to commuters.
At the end of the summer, Brussels-City announced that it would keep the roads – about 80% of the roads in the park – closed as part of a pilot project for a car-free Bois de la Cambre. Uccle took it to court and won, with the court calling Brussels-City’s move “tainted with illegality”. Brussels-City has 30 days to open the roads back up.
‘Only in Belgium’
Both sides had their say today. “I find it completely wrong that roads were even laid here in the first place,” Jaak, an activist with the cycling advocacy group Fietsersbond told Bruzz. “If you look up the definition of ‘park’, you find reference to rest, a green lung and relaxation. You can find other routes for cars, and that’s the job of the region, not three or four municipalities arguing about it.”
Michael, an Austrian expat who lives in Ixelles, was also in the park today. “That was one of the best effects of the corona crisis – that space freed up for people to go outdoors,” he told the paper. “We need that, especially for people who have children. Only in Belgium do you find a park that cars are allowed to drive through.”
Commuters, however, disagree, noting that there are no alternatives to the thoroughfares that run through the park. “I live in the south of the capital, and have to go to work in Avenue Louise,” a woman named Patricia told Bruzz. “I can’t bike because I have to transport materials. When the park used to only be closed to traffic on the weekends, that was great. But not during the week. Once everyone gets back to work, the traffic will be nightmarish. I am also a walker and cyclists, but there has to be space for everyone.”
The mayor of Brussels-City, meanwhile, plans to continue discussions with representatives from other municipalities affected by any change to traffic regulations in the park.