Brussels: ‘Pedestrian zones won’t affect commerce’
A new study from students of the ULB, ordered by pro-cyclist lobbyist group Gracq, shows that the transformation of roads in the city into pedestrian zones won’t affect commerce. Many business owners believe that most of their clientele come by car. The study proves otherwise.
It’s always the same story. Every time a major city, Brussels in this case, decides to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists by adapting the infrastructure and reducing the place for cars, business owners and associations get on their soapboxes. Many worry that business will be affected first by the construction works but mostly, and in the long term, by the lack of parking spaces.
But does modern clientele come to do its shopping in the city by car? That is exactly what the ULB students were set to find out by a study ordered by pro-cyclist lobbying group Gracq. They studied the case of the Waterloo and Toison d’Or/Gulden Vlieslaan Boulevards infrastructure projects as well as the new pedestrian highway in the Sablon/Zavel.
The students interrogated 296 clients and 88 business owners. On the side of retailers, most believe the new infrastructure is a menace to their business; they are 57,4% on the Toison d’Or Boulevard/ Gulden Vlieslaan, 85% in the Sablon/Zavel. “Most surveyed retailers believe their clientele comes mostly by car,” details the study.
However, things are different on the side of clients. On the Toison d’Or/Gulden Vlieslaan and Waterloo Boulevards, only 19% of interrogated clients declare having traveled by car. For the Sablon/Zavle square, things are different because 57% of the clients used their vehicle to go shopping. But it’s still far from the business owners’ view (90%).
“The majority of the clientele surveyed said they would continue to go to these neighborhoods and visit businesses if they were to be transformed into pedestrian zones (93,3% for Toison d’Or/Gulden Vlieslaan and Waterloo Boulevard, and 84,3% for the Sablon/Zavel Square),” details the study.
“This survey shows that retailers’ fears are partly unfounded, as they are based on a lack of knowledge of their customers’ mobility practices, and do not take into account the general evolution of mobility habits.
However, experience shows, both here and abroad, that transforming shopping streets into more user-friendly, and, therefore, more attractive, spaces has a positive impact on the local economy. Pedestrians and cyclists also constitute a more regular clientele, who spend at least as much overall as motorists,” declares Florine Cuignet from Gracq.