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Strong demand for regular Car-Free Sunday, says Smet
King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their four children enjoyed a bike ride through Brussels, joining thousands of others across the city who cycled, skated and walked the streets on Car-Free Sunday.
The royal family set off from their Laeken residence for lunch in the Galerie de la Reine downtown, before heading to Square Ambiorix to tour Victor Horta's Hôtel van Eetvelde on the occasion of Brussels heritage weekend.
Brussels' regional mobility minister Pascal Smet said the success of the 17th edition of Car-Free Sunday, which was helped by sunny weather, showed there was strong demand for the event to take place at more regular intervals throughout the year.
"Last year we asked the Brussels parliament to organise a participatory debate on the issue, but this request fell on deaf ears," he said. "We will therefore make concrete proposals ourselves to organise several days without cars."
Smet added: "The people of Brussels made this day a real celebration of Brussels, a lively, festive city where the human being is at the heart of the city.
"We've shown that a city with fewer cars is a lively and pleasant place. Our goal is to to have a city better designed for cyclists and pedestrians."
Thousands of people attended the Mobilmix party at the normally traffic-clogged Porte de Namur, while there were parties in the nearby Royal Park and on Place Poelaert, which celebrated the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle.
Elsewhere, not-for-profit association Cyclo gave free tune-ups for 800 bikes and organised a second-hand sale. And about 100 Greenpeace activists gathered on Rue Belliard in the EU district to stage a symbolic funeral procession and burial of a diesel engine.
"We are poisoned by diesel and the only way to make our air healthy quickly is to abandon this fuel as soon as possible," said Greenpeace Belgium air quality campaigner Joeri Thijs. "Diesel cars are as appropriate in town centres as smokers' corners in hospitals."
The environmental group has set up a temporary air quality monitoring device this week on Rue Belliard. Within half an hour of the traffic ban coming into force on Sunday morning, nitrogen dioxide levels had dropped by a third.