Plan to indulge pedestrians in Brussels (Belgium)

By News Editor / Updated: 06 May 2015

As part of its ambition to reduce the number of motorised kilometres by 20% by 2018 as compared to 2001, the Brussels Capital Region has developed a pedestrian plan which aims to realise the large walking potential in Brussels by pampering pedestrians.

Background & Objectives

Brussels already has a high number of pedestrians. Residents make 32% of their daily trips on foot, door to door. Three out of five citizens make a 10-minute-or-more walk at least five times a week. It was decided that the large numbers of pedestrians in Brussels deserved an official policy plan. Brussels also has great walking potential. The city consists mainly of compact neighbourhoods and a fine-meshed street network, with a lot of destinations within walking distance.

The new pedestrian should serve as a source of inspiration to launch a change in culture. Catering to the needs of pedestrians should become an automatic reflex for every actor involved. Essentially the pedestrian plan aims to strengthen the competitive advantage of walking, by making it easier, more comfortable, safer and more efficient. Good communication and an effective awareness raising strategy were therefore considered essential.


An international exploration round was held and an analysis of walking in Brussels was undertaken. These tasks involved investigation of other European cities comparable to Brussels and several walks in different types of districts to gather input from residents.

For decades, traffic flow was central to the design of public space. The attitude towards pedestrians was based on tolerance, protection and minimum quality. The new pedestrian policy aims to invite and indulge the pedestrian, offering optimal quality. 10 basic quality requirements have been identified which will, from now on, guide the design of public space and new developments:

  1. A fine-mazed network
  2. Direct and continuous routes
  3. Smooth intermodality
  4. Offering a walking experience (interaction with the surroundings)
  5. More space for pedestrians
  6. Excellent physical comfort
  7. Universal design
  8. Centres and public transport nodes as magnets attracting large pedestrian crowds
  9. Guaranteed safety
  10. Calm traffic

More specific actions include the following:

  • Together with all stakeholders and in conjunction with residents, local networks should be visually improved.
  • All strategic public transport nodes in Brussels will be refurbished to be more attractive for pedestrians.
  • As pedestrian flow is a strong indicator of the commercial potential of a location, data on pedestrian flow will have a significant bearing on decisions about space in refurbishment projects. A survey in the main shopping district has shown that shop-keepers seriously overestimate the number of customers who arrive by car. In the Louiza district for instance, shop-keepers thought that 53% of their customers came by car, 28% by public transport and 14% on foot. The real numbers however are 11% by car, 51% by public transport and 36% on foot.
  • Interesting façades at ground level make walking more enjoyable and encourage pedestrians to stay longer and enter buildings.
  • Parking facilities will be concentrated at the edge of districts or underground. Squares can no longer be isolated by traffic flow.
  • Iconic spaces and axes should help pedestrians build a mental roadmap of the Brussels Region.
  • The number of road casualties must be reduced to zero.


In Autumn 2012, the plan is due for clearance by the Brussels government. It is a contribution to the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, the completion of which is expected in 2012.

The ambition of the pedestrian plan is to turn Brussels into an exemplary pedestrian city by 2040, with at least 40% of trips being on foot. By 2020, 35% of trips should be made on foot (compared to 32% in 2010). This would rank Brussels alongside the top pedestrian cities of Barcelona (36%), Zürich (36%), London (37%), Lyon (40%) and Geneva (40%).

Next step is to draft specific action plans, with an allocated budget.


Urban mobility planning
Walking and cycling
Pierre-Jean Bertrand
Sarah Martens
Integrated transport planning
planning - network design
livable communities
Pedestrian facilities
sustainable urban mobility plans
26 Nov 2012
06 May 2015