Brussels, Belgium, freed its streets of cars and heavy traffic yesterday as it celebrated its 11th annual car-free day, marking a week when cities across Europe will promote cycling and other green transport.
The seat of the European Union and home to environmental legislation for its 27 member states is encouraging efforts to cut vehicle emissions — and get citizens out on their feet.
While planners recognize that one day will not make much difference to the environment’s bill of health, the event is supposed to create awareness that leads to change in the future.
But will it?
Brussels has held a car-free day each year since 2000 — but was given an F grade this year for progress in reducing “soot emissions” by the Soot-free for the Climate! campaign run by a group of German environmental and consumer associations.
Mirroring Brussels, London, Madrid and Rome were also given failing grades. Berlin did among the best with a B, but none of the 17 cities assessed secured an A grade.
Brussels has also been dubbed the most congested European city by car navigation firm TomTom — though its blockages are nothing compared to, say, parts of China. In 2010, drivers suffered a 60-mile traffic jam on a highway from Beijing to Mongolia.
Brussels and more than 1,900 other cities will bring “alternative mobility” experts together to discuss cycling infrastructure and behavioral changes during European Mobility Week from September 16-22.
During the week, the Brussels embassy of the Netherlands will be holding Orange Bike Days, which include expos, organized rides and workshops to encourage cycling — long a part of the Dutch national identity.