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Fluidity of movement and pedestrian inconvenience in the shopping streets of Brussels

Notes de la rédaction

This is the press release related to the article from Alexis Creten, Aniss M. Mezoued and Quentin Letesson, published on 21 June 2021. Read the article.

The reopening of cafés and restaurants after their long closures has led to the emergence of many terraces in Brussels. In places where they used to exist, they have been extended; and where the pavement could not be used, parking spaces have been converted into terraces, using recycled pallets, fencing and lanterns. Along with this renewed enjoyment of social activities, however, the reorganisation of public space with an increase in the areas devoted to tables on certain pavements has created significant disruption for pedestrians, particularly those with reduced mobility. How do you find your way when you cannot see and your usual route has suddenly changed? Which way do you go with a pushchair when a bicycle is blocking your way? Pedestrian inconveniences – those mentioned above and many others – are the focus of this issue of Brussels Studies. Alexis Creten (sociologist, UCLouvain), Aniss Mezoued (architect and urbanist, UCLouvain) and Quentin Letesson (archaeologist and urbanist, UCLouvain) present the results of a study based on an original methodology combining quantitative measurements and pedestrian routes with commentaries, in order to understand the diversity of inconveniences and how they are perceived.

The findings go beyond simply listing the inconveniences identified for pedestrians and even more so for those with reduced mobility. Due to their illustrative nature (concentration of pedestrian flows and inconveniences linked to the displays and refuse associated with the shops), the qualitative analyses carried out in several of the city's major shopping streets supplement the counts and descriptions with further details. Thus, far from being perceived negatively, the inconveniences associated with shops and HoReCa establishments are much better tolerated than others, which are viewed as being unwarranted. Where clothes racks, cardboard boxes and tables are part of the urban atmosphere, scooters and advertising panels are perceived as nuisances which should be regulated. The results also show that the perceptions and the degree of inconvenience vary greatly depending on the environment (combination of inconveniences) and the pedestrian profiles.

In order to facilitate pedestrian movement, the optimal solution therefore does not seem to be a matter of simply clearing the public space, but rather the implementation of multiple local solutions, taking into account the various needs so as to satisfy all of them as best as possible. The authors therefore argue in favour of a dynamic approach to the issue of pedestrian inconvenience, adapted locally and in consultation with all of the stakeholders with an impact on pavement traffic conditions. Only then will walking – which is at the heart of the Brussels Good Move plan as the best short-distance mode of travel – become more favourable and appealing to all pedestrians.

Creten, Alexis, Mezoued, Aniss M. and Letesson, Quentin, “Fluidity of movement and pedestrian inconvenience in the shopping streets of Brussels”, Brussels Studies [Online], General collection, No 158, 21 June 2021. URL:
Tatiana Debroux, Editor in chief:

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