After twelve days of protests by disgruntled residents, shopkeepers, and even the security services against the new circulation plan in the Cureghem district, the municipal council of Anderlecht had no other choice Tuesday evening than to scrap the project and remove all concrete blocks in the streets.
The committee “No to the Good Move Plan” reproaches the bench of the Mayor and Aldermen for several technical blunders and lack of concertation with the people. From today on, new concertations will be started on a ‘micro level’ in the districts to find a better solution, the Alderwoman for Mobility, Susanne Müller-Hubsch (Groen), promises.
The residents of Cureghem, the center of gravity of the regional Good Move mobility plan in Anderlecht, took a firm stand against the changed traffic situation that is supposed to lead to a low-traffic neighborhood. Since the introduction of the circulation plan in early July, there were already several incidents.
Newly introduced traffic signs were taken down or painted over, and concrete blocks that were supposed to serve as roadblocks were moved, resulting in accidents. For example, on Monday evening, Brussels MP Juan Benjumea (Groen) crashed his bicycle head-on into a concrete block that had been dragged to a cycle path. Fortunately, he only sustained grazes and a broken tooth.
A petition against the circulation plan has since collected almost 6 000 signatures. When even city councilor Lotfi Mostefa (PS) compared the concrete blocks to those in the Gaza Strip, it signaled the political floodgates to open as the party had signed the agreement in February.
Anarchist City Council sessions
Last Wednesday, it also came to an outburst at the municipal council. Citizens attending the session shouted at the councilors, causing the city council to be stopped for security reasons. As a result, some majority parties, Les Engagés, and DéFI, withdrew their support for the plan put forward by the Alderwoman for Mobility, Suzanne Muller-Hubsch (Ecolo-Groen).
The situation seems to be gradually becoming untenable. A decision has already been made to remove some of the concrete blocks.
Mayor Fabrice Cumps (PS) has now announced that the traffic situation will be reversed to the old situation. However, it appears to be only a proposal and not a final decision, as the college still has to deliberate and approve the decision.
Alderwoman for Mobility Muller-Hubsch has said that her party is willing to sit around the table again. “We want to return to the participation phase, but with the knowledge and plan that there is now,” said Muller-Hubsch, in front of whose house police officers patrol to ensure her safety.
Need for a global plan
Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) regrets that residents struggling with the Good Move mobility plan, which divides the entire region into car-free neighborhoods, are fighting their battle through intimidation and threats.
“A safe, livable Cureghem for its residents is the absolute goal. There is a need for a global plan that answers the neighborhood’s concerns,” Van den Brandt responds. “This goes beyond just investing in mobility and public space: it must also be done in safety, crime, cleanliness, and housing. We will only get there by sincerely listening to each other and working together. We won’t let Cureghem off the hook,” says Van den Brandt.
Fear for the social cohesion
Meanwhile, the neighborhood residents have set up the ‘Non au Plan Good Move de Cureghem’ committee. They say they have been fighting for two months against a mobility decision that has left Cureghem all tangled up, creating more emissions and insecurity.
“What has emerged in Cureghem is a municipal people’s democracy. This means a process in which the inhabitants are involved and question government policy,” the committee echoes.
Reacting to news agency Belga, Mayor Cumps said he fears the neighborhood’s social cohesion will deteriorate. “As mayor, I have to provide just that cohesion. That’s why my proposal is not to continue, for the time being, and to start again from scratch, with everyone around the table,” the Anderlecht mayor said. “There were also things that worked well, so we can now proceed progressively and take new decisions already in the coming months,” Cumps concludes.
Now also in Forest
In the meantime, after Schaerbeek, Anderlecht, Molenbeek, and the Pentagon, the municipality of Forest, where Ecolo-Groen is also in power, has now approved the new Municipal Mobility Plan (MMP). It will be implemented gradually, in consultation with residents and shopkeepers.
The plan is to create 7 km cycling facilities over the next ten years. It also aims to increase the number of secure bicycle parking spaces (on and off the road) from 400 to 600. In addition, to compensate for the removal of on-street parking spaces, off-street car parks will be made available to Forest residents at various locations in the commune.
According to La Capital, 285 000 journeys are made to and from Forest daily. However, Forest households have a relatively low car ownership rate compared to other municipalities: 51% do not have a car. The objective of the MMP is, therefore, to rebalance the sharing of public space between all users so that it is fairer and raise awareness of transport alternatives.
No adjustments for now
In general, no quick adjustments are expected to the global circulation plan. However, Brussels Alderman for Mobility Bart Dhondt (Groen) has already said there will be an evaluation after six months.
Some traffic filters work well; others, for example, Dansaert, do not do so well. And you also regularly see people ignoring traffic rules out of frustration. However, most Brussels residents are also just evaluating the new situation.
Some neighborhoods have become more car-free, and their inhabitants appreciate that. But, on the other hand, it sometimes remains tough if, for example, you inevitably must be at a specific place in the city center by car for, say, a delivery.
Sometimes you are sent into a loop because a concrete block blocks off the street, only to end up x minutes later at the same spot in the road but after that concrete block. But meanwhile, those neighborhoods in that loop get to handle the extra traffic that wasn’t always there before. At the same time, the detour effect sometimes causes more CO2 emissions, wasted time, and annoyance because the plan’s logic is unclear.
In any case, all so-called transit traffic is directed to the ring road around the Pentagon, which will undoubtedly create more congestion and saturation on the ring unless people think twice and decide to maybe use the car less often to drive around in Brussels after all.