Brussels embraced a car-free transformation, as it marked Sunday 17 September 2023 as an historic occasion when the entire capital city became Europe's largest car-free zone for a day, opening the streets for pedestrians and cycling. It served as the launch of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, transforming Brussels' typically car-congested streets into lively spaces filled with various activities and festivities.
This initiative, aimed at curbing the dominance of "King Car", was a delightful opportunity for both locals and visitors to rediscover the joys of walking, cycling, and using public transport. In recent years, the car-free day has gained substantial popularity, with its positive impact on the region becoming increasingly evident. Last year, air pollutants significantly decreased (some by up to 90%) and noise pollution in various areas witnessed a marked reduction.
Although Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt proposed the notion of more frequent car-free days, even once a month, discussions at last year's mayoral conference did not yield the desired results due to budgetary constraints. However, Van den Brandt remains undeterred, emphasising that the annual car-free day is always a cause for celebration, a moment when public spaces are reclaimed by the community. "We breathe easier, we see the city differently," she noted.
Looking ahead, Van den Brandt has suggested the prospect of organising a car-free day during the Iris Festival, the official celebration of the Brussels-Capital Region, on 8 May 2024. There is also appetite from the public, with 58% of respondents from a 2022 survey launched by Clean Cities Campaign indicating that they were in support of having a car-free day per week.
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