cyclingt o u r22cycle facilities up and down the hillsand one-way streets of the dense«eastern heart» of brusselspitfalls and challenges of planningcycle facilities in a cycle-(un)friendly,«no space left for newcomers» environment16 km | 2 hours and 30 minutessummary of the tour – themeThis is where you will bless your 7-speed hub, marvel at the pleasure of a downhill ride or two (nomore, we promise), appreciate your unique Brussels cycle-map (with relief contours and steeper streets– and street numbers to avoid yet another uphill struggle), feel the pulse of the city riding through thecity-centre and the CBD cum-EU "district", feel the charm of the Brussels way of life and 19 th centuryarchitectural heritage, and curse the car a couple of times (and maybe the tramway, just once). You willquickly understand how Brussels is cycle-friendly (because of its distinctive urban feel and its size andstructure) and -unfriendly (because of the sheer complexity of creating a network of cycle routes off themain roads and the more than often near-impossibility of creating cycle facilities along main streets).Welcome to the surrealist project of making this city "cycle-friendly enough" and to the surrealist waysof getting there. Welcome to the cleverness of cycling in Brussels and to the inventive paths and wayswe have used and developed to get around obstacles – not least the somehow "passé" (very) local authorities,of which we have no less than 19 in this 1 million city.www.velo-city2009.combbs-gc
oute description1. START: Tour & Taxis2. Havenlaan / Avenue du PortThis (regional) street will soon be completely refurbished. Theentirely new lay-out includes a 1-way cycle track on the side ofTour & Taxis (to be used mainly for 'day to day local trips'), anda 2-way cycle track on the canal side (this is the standard facilityplanned all along the canal from North to South along the Euro-Velo route, with a high proportion of recreational cycling).3. Redersplein / Place des ArmateursCycle facilities here are very recent. Cobblestones were replacedby asphalt only a few months ago. Markings are still in a testperiod. Negotiating space for cyclists on such a spot is veryarduous, and most of the time we will consider shared facilitieswith buses. This is one of the main "flooding gates" into Brusselsfor incoming traffic, and the reduction from 2 to 1 lane isstill disputed.4. Junction Willebroe(c)k / Redersplein / ArmateursAgain a very recent facility, again still disputed and in a test period.A by-pass for traffic turning right coming from Wille broe(c)k (160cars at the evening peak hour) was taken away to make space forcycling facilities. Cyclists here are given a choice between twotechniques for turning left onto Redersplein / Armateurs (onefor fast and confident "hares", and one for slower, not so traffic-savvy "tortoises").
5. Groendreef / Allée VerteWe are happy to announce that this short stretch of paved roadwill soon disappear and be replaced by a foot & cycle path. Inthe meantime, (1) you can test why cyclists dislike paved streetsand (2) these cobblestones will even sooner be unlawfullycovered with asphalt while awaiting the closure of the street(removing or covering any surface in natural stone is forbiddenby the planning regulations, unless a building permit has beenobtained to that effect).6. Simon Bolivarlaan / Boulevard Simon BolivarThis boulevard is typical of what was planned in this area in the1950's. The so-called "Quartier Nord" was meant to be modern,with motorways at street level and pedestrian areas atopthe bases of the surrounding buildings. The 'modern' streetpatternhas remained unfinished, with oddities like this bulgeon Bolivar (soon to be withdrawn). The master plan for the redevelopmentof boulevard Bolivar now includes cycle facilitiesand separate bus/tram lanes (unlike plans of the 1950's). Theboulevard will be linked with Picardstraat / Rue Picard (oppositeTour & Taxis) by a new bridge closed to motorists.7. Junction Simon Bolivarlaan / Boulevard Simon Bolivar / Albert IIThis horrific roundabout is pretty much an eyesore for us cyclistsworking in the Regional administration building facingit (our offices are the big greenish block closing the square).A first improvement came with the reduction of some of thebranches coming into the roundabout to just one lane. Thecycle lane circling the roundabout is NOT what you should do.Turning this 1950's monster into a reasonably cycle-friendlylay-out can be taken as a good example of many a difficulty weface in putting up the cycle-network here.8. Bd. Albert IIAgain a grand 1950's lay-out, this boulevard was devoid ofany building up until about 15 years ago. When the area wasfinally revamped (after having been razed to the ground justafter WWII by the bombshells of modern town-planning), 1 ofthe 3 lanes in each direction was turned into a cycle lane – andfor the very first time a 'safety zone' between parked cars andcyclists was designed… in order to use up 'unwanted' space!But this has stuck, and the 'safety zone' is now part of ourtechnical requirements.
9. Koolbrandersstraat / Rue des Charbonniers – North StationAgain a result of the grand 1950's plans for the Quartier Nord– but this time the old name of an old street has stuck with thefaceless modern avenue! Before entering Vooruitgangstraat /Rue du Progrès (turning right), on the left you will see the NorthStation Bicycle Station and the North Station Cycle Parking (aseparate cycle parking for employees of the Brussels RegionalAdministration is located elsewhere in the block).10. Vooruitgangstraat / Rue du Progrès / Rogierplein / Place RogierVooruitgangstraat / Rue du Progrès was one of the first onesto be equipped with bus lanes about 15 years ago. Central buslanes are unfit for cyclists in most circumstances (and there isno provision in the law to open them to cyclists). The situationhere may change dramatically with the revamping of Rogierplein/ Place Rogier at the end of the street. Except for bussesand cyclists, traffic would be almost cut off and reduced tolocal destinations, turning this into a local street.11. Adolphe Maxlaan / Boulevard Adolphe Max (opposite side of Rogierplein / Place Rogier)We will not ride on Adolphe Maxlaan / Boulevard Adolphe Max – but this is a story worth telling. The so-called"central boulevards" (Max + Anspach + Lemonnier) are a major feature of 19 th century Brussels. Existing plans fora complete refurbishment were (temporarily?) ditched 2-3 years ago. But then so were plans for marking mandatorycycle lanes that were supposed to put the proposed new lay-out to the test. Work for marking the cycle laneswas already in progress when the local maire had them suddenly stopped. We were left with existing markingsgone at junctions, and nothing to replace them. The saga of cycling on the central boulevards goes on – andillustrates the very sensitive issue of cycles lanes vs car lanes.12. Nieuwstraat / Rue NeuveThe "Wegcode / Code de la rue" ("street code", replacing theusual "highway code") in Belgium was implemented about10 years ago and includes many features of great interest forcyclists. Among others, pedestrianized streets can be made accessiblefor cyclists permanently – with the legislation givingdetails on how cyclists should behave according to the sparseor heavy presence of pedestrians. Nieuwstraat / Rue Neuve isvery pleasant to ride until about 10-11 on weekdays and in theevening from about 7. Outside these hours, you will be (unbearably)slowed down by pedestrians. By law, you are requestedto dismount if the density of pedestrians makes cycling amongthem hazardous, and in case of an accident cyclists will alwaysbe deemed the responsible party.
13. Blekerijstraat / Rue de la Blanchisserie (cycle route ICR 12)This stretch of cycle route 12 (Blekerij / Blanchisserie, Meiboom,De Broeck hoven de Bergeyck) is a first glimpse of what we tryachieving with the cycle routes GFR (Gewestelijke Fietsroute) /ICR (Itinéraire Cyclable Régional) network: cyclists are leadthrough relatively quiet back streets, and go uphill in a successionof slopes and plateaux. Even though this part of ICR 12 isnot ready at all, most cyclists would feel relatively at ease, especiallyas approaches to traffic lights are equipped with bicycleboxes (advanced stop lines for cyclists).14. Pachecolaan / Boulevard Pacheco / De Berlaimontlaan / Boulevard De Berlaimont (cycle routes ICR 1/12/PP)These boulevards are the by-products of the construction of therailway tunnel crossing Brussels and of the huge administrativecentre where the Belgian state's administration stayed until 5years ago. A study for a complete re-designing will be done inthe next few years. In the meantime, the Brussels Regional Authorityhas paid for resurfacing and has come up with proposalsfor markings that were negotiated with the local authority (theCity of Brussels). At least one lane was taken away in each direction,and the roundabout is meant as a test (it fits in very wellwith the continuation of ICR 12 going uphill).15. Bankstraat / Rue de la Banque (cycle route 12)In the future ICR 12 will branch off ICR 1 at the roundabout and go up Bankstraat / Rue de la Banque. At present thisstreet (and the following ones) is in such a bad state that you can only cycle on the pavement. But the deal struckbetween the Region and the City about Pachecolaan / Boulevard Pacheco / Berlaymont takes into account the factthat the City of Brussels is now ready with an application for a building permit for the complete refurbishment ofthis stretch. This will come in 2010 and will be paid for by the City.16. Arenbergstraat / Rue d'Arenberg / Stormstraat / Rue d'AssautBefore turning right into Loksumstraat / Rue de Loxum just pastthe Cathedral, you can have a quick look (and a quick downhillthrill and uphill pull…) onto a major bus+cycle facility in Rued'Assaut / Stormstraat / Rue d'Arenberg / Arenbergstraat. Thiscontraflow scheme has been fought over for a long time, first topersuade the City of Brussels maire to allow busses in contraflow(taking away one lane for traffic, because this used to be a oneway 2-lane 'circle'), then to persuade the public transport companyMIVB / STIB to allow cyclists with the busses, even uphill. Apiece of legislation even had to be changed before cyclists wereallowed in. The contraflow works perfectly well, with no complaintseither from the MIVB / STIB or from cyclists.
17. Keizerinlaan / Boulevard de l'Impératrice (cycle route ICR 12)This "monstrous" street (a stone's throw away from the Unesco listed Grote Markt / Grand-Place…) is again theresult of the building of the railway tunnel crossing the city centre between the Midi and North Stations. About 10years ago, the whole system of streets around Central Station was a huge roundabout made up of one way streetswith 3 or 4 lanes each. The junction in front of Central Station is still called "Europe Junction" – referring to thenotion that 2 European motorways would cross here…). Within months, this stretch will be transformed, with thestreet opposite Central Station closed to all traffic but cyclists. This is emblematic, since it will be the first cut off ofa 'major' street in the centre.18. Loksumstraat / Rue de Loxum / Koloniënstraat / Rue des Colonies (cycle routes 2/3/4)A testimony of the difficult start of the ICR network, Koloniënstraat / Rue des Colonies, although it carries 3 cycleroutes, still only has this minimal 'facility' for cyclists riding uphill (and nothing at all for those coming down the hill).Major changes are in the pipe-line now, with the MIVB / STIB wanting to bring back a tram line. Cyclists are watchfulof the plans, because early sketches were more concerned with maintaining parking spaces than with improving thecyclability of this stretch.19. Wetstraat / Rue de la Loi (intra muros) (ICR 2/3/4)A long time 'the' major gateway for cars entering the city centre(coming from the 'old' 5 lane oneway section of Wetstraat / Ruede la Loi extra muros), this street is slowly changing functionsand might soon be reduced to a 2 lane carriageway with cyclingfacilities. The evolution of views about Wetstraat / Rue de la Loiis slow, but steady. A special working group has been set up 2years ago to get the Region and the City together about howto improve or bring about the ICR network in the city centre.Improving the cycle routes around the Park will be a major stepforward, but it all depends on the acceptance that there mustbe less cars in the centre, which is a decision to be taken by thelocal authority (all streets 'intra muros' are local streets wherethe City of Brussels holds sway).20. Kleine Ring / Petite Ceinture (Regentlaan / Boulevard du Régent)After the Septembre 11 th attacks, the American Embassy onRegentlaan / Boulevard du Régent got the side-lane on theKleine Ring / Petite Ceinture to be closed. Cyclists had no otherchoice than to get onto the central lanes and into the heavytraffic… When the situation became "permanent", efforts werestarted to get cyclists out of harm's way. It did take a full 5years to reach a compromise solution, with the separate cycling /pedestrians path being built in mid-2008…
21. Wetstraat / Rue de la Loi (extra muros) (ICR 2/3/4)When cycle route 2 (the first functional ICR) was built back in 1998-1999, the then Brussels minister for public works refused any attemptto put up cyclists on Wetstraat / Rue de la Loi (although thiswas the designated route for ICR 2 in the Brussels Masterplan).Cyclists were compelled to go down and up Streets Joseph IIand Stevin, losing the advantage of the Rue de la Loi / Wetstraatbridge. ICR 2 was then re-routed in 2003-2004 when the nextoutgoing minister had the guts to end his career with a revolutionaryrefurbishment of Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat that tookaway 1 of the 5 lanes in order to make space for 1 cycle path oneach side of the street, turning Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat into themost successful contraflow ever in Brussels. Within months, cyclistscounts went up from 30 at the peak hour to 300 (includingabout 60 who transferred from Stevinstrat / Rue Stevin – whichstill amounts to a trebling of the number of cyclists).22. Roundabout SchumanMost of you will know Wetstraat / Rue de la loi and roundaboutSchuman from TV pictures associated with some nastycomments about yet another unpleasant imposition "from Brussels"(read "the EU"). Belgians rather do like the EU, and Brusselscyclists have good reasons to like them too – they probablyprovide a large chunk of daily commuters who cycle in Brusselsstreets, and the EU Cyclists Group is a welcome addition tothe local pressure groups GRACQ and Fiestserbond and Place-O-Vélo! But the 'emblematic' roundabout Schuman is a black spotfor cyclists, and not an easy one to solve. All (radical, yet acceptable)ideas are welcome to deal with this "half, traffic lights runroundabout"…23. Jubelpark / Parc du Cinquantenaire (cycle route ICR 4)Cycle routes 2, 3 and 4 split here. The park is a "roundabout"for cyclists, in a way – people cross in all directions, although thecentral alley is the major route cycled. The public inquest preparingfor the delivery of the building permit to make all sides perfectlycycle-friendly is now under way. Within one or two years,two-way cycle paths will circle the whole of the park. Please notethat it DID take about 4-5 years to get the central alley fully cyclefriendly(though the very minimal ramp at the eastern end of itwill help you figure how small steps for cyclists can be huge stepsfor others, for obviously very obscure reasons – a wholemark ofnot yet cycle-friendly cities struggling to get there…).
24. Tervurenpoort / Porte de Tervueren / Tervurenlaan / Avenue de Tervueren (ICR 4)This must be the first truly gigantic step forward we have made– although it may look very unimpressive now. Back in 1998-1999, ultra-long negotiations took place to make the ridiculouslyshort stretch between Galliërslaan / Avenue des Gaulois andPater de Dekenstraat / Rue Père Dedeken cycle-friendly in bothways. Going East was fairly straightforward. Going West wasnot: the southern side of Tervurenlaan / Avenue de Tervuerenhad to be "overturned", with the side-lane closed to the generaltraffic (!!!), turned into a "semi-pedestrianized zone" (??!!) andopened in contraflow for cyclists (!!??!!). After all the questionmarks and exclamation marks were painstakingly answered… itworked out that the scheme DID work (!!!!!!!). This was the beginningof the melting of the glaciers of scepticism that used tomeet any idea about finding some sort of a passage for cyclists(now only some considerable icebergs are still around).25. Pater de Dekenstraat / Rue Père Dedeken (ICR 4)This is an exemplary collection of contraflows AND back-to-backone way streets AND traffic calming. A very important featureon cycle routes, never obtained if the local authority (here thecommune of Etterbeek) will not have it, is the suppression ofthrough traffic. Local streets are not always quiet streets, andit does take some convincing to get local authorities to acceptpenalizing motorists for the sake of a higher quality cycle route.Etterbeek has done this more than once and was the very first"central" local authority to go for a comprehensive opening ofalmost all one-way streets to cyclists riding contraflow, withsome extra effort done on stretches of ICR (back-to-back oneway streets and 30 km/h speed limits).26. Frontlaan / Avenue du Front / Place du Roi Vainqueur / Koning Overwinnaarplein /Elf Novemberlaan / Avenue du 11 NovembreThis is no longer on a regional cycle route (ICR), but this is a good example of what a local cycle route can be. TheICR network is made up of 19 routes that are approximately 1km apart at a maximum (meaning that from almostanywhere in the Region, you would have to cycle for 500m before you rejoin an ICR). Sometimes, very interestingroutes could not be taken up in the regional network, but should be regarded as extra, local links that might just aswell be signposted (the signposting of local routes has been integrated in the concept developed by the RegionalAuthority for its own network). N.B.: you will notice that most, if not all, of the one way streets you will see fromnow on are open in contraflow for cyclists).27. Sneessensstraat / Rue Sneessens / Baucqstraat / Rue Baucq (ICR A)Here we are back on the ICR network, on one of the two orbital routes. Baucqstraat / Rue Baucq is a beautifulexample of co-operation between the Region an the local authority Etterbeek, who evenly shared their interventionson this stretch of ICR to make it ready for signposting (which will come in the next few months).N.B.: when crossing Oudergemselaan / Avenue d'Auderghem, notice the present lay-out: this corresponds to whatused to be on Kroonlaan / Avenue de la Couronne (without the trees), where you will shortly see a radical refurbishmentwhere bus/cycle lanes have been introduced in both directions.
28. Mouterijstraat / Pont du GermoirThis dreadfully complex knot was un unsolved puzzle for yearson end. With the trams vying for space and cycle routes crossingthe rails, it looked like the only option was to divert the cycleroutes – which was impossible without making a mess of routeA, forgetting the connection between routes 5 and MM, andlosing the possible link with future railway station 'Mouterij /Germoir' (where regional trains will stop within a few years).Existing plans drawn by the public transport company MIVB /STIB were re-designed by the cycle unit. The exceptional lay-outincludes a shared 'tram and cycle lane' (which is forbidden bylaw in Belgium, but perfectly legal tricks were used to go roundthe legal ban…). This is also your opportunity to see what thenew Brussels ICR network signposting will look like.29. Brouwerijstraat / Rue de la BrasserieWithin months this street will have gone through a completerefurbishment. Although the 'perfect' solution for cyclists couldnot be implemented (with the local authority Elsene / Ixelles refusingto even take into consideration the scrapping of parkingspaces on one of the two sides), a very decent compromise wasworked out in collaboration with the MIVB / STIB: cyclists willhave a "cycle-friendly" space between parked cars and the railsgoing uphill (this street has the gentlest slope in the whole areato go up from the very important Flageyplein / Place Flagey toKroonlaan / Avenue de la Couronne) as well as downhill. At tramstops, cyclists will have an option to ride behind the tram stop(although a piece of legislation must still be changed to makethis an option instead of an obligation).30. Kroonlaan / Avenue de la Couronne (ICR A/5)Kroonlaan / Avenue de la Couronne was one of the startingpoints of the design of the cycle routes network, together withWetstraat / Rue de la Loi: both bridge the Maelbeek valley, amajor feature of the Eastern central suburbs, and were "inescapable"as cycle routes. The major change on Kroonlaan / Avenuede la Couronne is the creation of a bus/cycle lane in each direction(this was strongly opposed by the local authority Elsene /Ixelles). The first idea of just painting cycle lanes was quicklyscrapped in favour of a "joint" facility including a major busline. This then evolved into a full refurbishment, including newpavements and the planting of trees. Kroonlaan / Avenue de laCouronne has the same symbolic value as Wetstraat / Rue de laLoi as a major political achievement in making Brussels "quite abit more cycle-friendly".
31. Troonlaan / Rue du Trône (ICR 5)This is a fairly typical example of the harshness of the Brusselsenvironment we are supposed to turn into a cycle-friendly environment.There is no valid alternative to get from Kroonlaan /Avenue de la Couronne to the city centre. And there is (as yet)no space you can spare for cyclists. The new markings are theshape we give to an "advisory cycle lane", for lack of any suchprovision in our street code. They are new because we havescrapped the older markings (a mandatory cycle lane that camewith the new lay-out about 15 years ago) that were tucked awayagainst the parking spaces, and very recently a young womanwas struck by an opening door that threw her under the wheelsof a bus that was overtaking her… The advisory cycle lane nowgives cyclists a cue to where they SHOULD ride to be safe, whereas the older mandatory cycle lane compelled cycliststo keep in the danger zone. 15% of accidents registered in Brussels are linked to the opening of a car door.32. Hertogsstraat / Rue Ducale / Royal Park (ICR 5/PP)The last bit of Troonlaan / Rue du Trône and the junction at the end of it on the Kleine Ring / Petite Ceinture are ournext headaches. Any idea of medication is welcome. We think the only way we can make space for cyclists on ruedu Trône will be by improving the junction in order… to improve traffic flows enough for us to take away one of thelanes approaching the traffic lights at the end of the street.When that headache is over, we can start dealing with the next one: the cobblestones on Hertogsstraat / Rue Ducaleand Paleizenplein / Place des Palais are of VERY high value (anyone who would like to steal them is welcome…). Thevalue is historical, of course. These Swedish cobblestones are heavily guarded by the Regional administration thatissues building permits. We would like to cut their heads off in order to provide a flat surface to ride on, but gettinga consensus on such a crime in these royal surroundings is tough.Crossing the Royal Park will make you understand why cyclists insist on keeping open this route into the heart of Brussels.33. Koloniënstraat / Rue des Colonies / Loxumstraat / Rue de Loxum / Schildknaapstraat / Rue de l'EcuyerNow comes the joyful time of riding downhill… and on the reservedcontraflow bus & cycle lanes that circle the opera house.You can also ride the bus & cycle lane uphill if you like a challenge– negotiations with the public transport company MIVB /STIB have ended up with the whole circuit being opened to cyclists(but only after a piece of legislation was changed to takeaway an earlier lower limit of 3.5m for the width of a sharedlane that brought no benefits and was impossible to hold in thenarrow streets of central Brussels).34. Anspachlaan / Boulevard Anspach / De Brouckèreplein / Place De Brouckère / Jacqmainlaan /Boulevard JacqmainThe central boulevards (Anspach, Lemonnier and Max) shouldhave been equipped with cycle lanes by now. But the local lordmaire of the City of Brussels stopped the works halfway quite afew months ago, and recent attempts to revive the project havefailed. The proposed plans for a new lay-out of the boulevardsstill includes cycle lanes and the reduction of the carriageway to1 lane in each direction, though, on a modal similar to Jacqmainlaan/ Boulevard Jacqmain (but improved with a wider safetyzone between the cycle lanes and the parking spots).
35. Koopliederstraat / Rue des Commerçants (ICR 12)The City of Brussels has started studying plans for a completenew lay-out of Koopliederstraat / Rue des Commerçants. As hasbeen done in other streets of the historical city centre, the Regionalauthority will cooperate with the City in order to providethe best possible service level on cycle routes, notably by providingco-financing of new facilities or refurbishments and bynegociating hard on the kind of surface that will be provided(cyclists favour asphalt, but in some cases the historical and aestheticvalue of streets make the case for keeping natural stones,but then with especially prepared stones that are sawed in orderto make them flat – check the short test site on Grasmarkt /Marché aux Herbes).36. Willebroekkaai / Quai de Willebroeck / Redersplein / Place des ArmateursCycle paths on Willebroekkaai / Quai de Willebroeck are an exampleof the 1980's facilities, that were sub-standard in widthand lay-out, completely isolated with no network effect, mostlymade with red concrete slabs. Red concrete slabs are progressivelybeing replaced by asphalt. Getting the paths enlarged isoften difficult, because most of the time this objective will meanscrapping parking spaces. Improving junctions is a major must onthese facilities, but this is piecemeal and difficult work, becausethe old concepts are completely impractical. Improving the junctionbetween Willebroeck and Armateurs was long overdue –and Velo-City 2009 provided the final push to get us there: nowyou can choose your own way back to Tour & Taxis, whether youare a fast hare or a "chi va piano, va sano" tortoise!
contact detailsFor more information on this technical tour,please contact:Ulric SchollaertBrussels Regional Authority+32 (0)2/204.19.16 | email@example.com