Monday, July 23, 2012

Picnic op Anspachlaan- Brussel

In a concerted effort to increase the bike-friendliness of Brussels, a group of genius organizers staged a sit-in on one of the city's busiest avenues. The plan was a protest picnic- a very passive protest, as per Belgian standard- to be held Sunday afternoon on Anspachlaan. 

Bike lines criss-cross the city, its true; nonetheless, there is excessive traffic for such a modest-sized city and reckless drivers force bakfietsen and all their passengers to remain at home.  
Brussels instituted the Stadsvillo program only 3 years back to encourage more people to use bicycles for transport. For a modest €30 per year, a pass grants access to some 2,000 public bikes at 150 stations around town. 
A certain level of bravery is a requisite for Villo riders- navigating tram, bus, and car lanes, baby buggies, distracted text-walkers makes for an exciting ride. And contradictory to the country's "flatland" or "lowland" reputation, Brussels hosts some mean hills.

Needless to say, biking is more prevalent here than in most US cities, but the City's support for bikers and their efforts to improve bike safety leaves much to be desired. All this adds up to discourage cycling for sport and transport within city limits (keep in mind that cycling is the national sport of Belgium...)

Brusselaars and visitors enjoyed 4 blissful hours of an auto-free Anspachlaan, gathering to garner support for more pro-cycling policies, an extended bike lane network, and to simultaneously reduce the amount of vehicle traffic and increase auto-free zones. Packing babies, picnic tables, even barbeques and lawn bowling sets for the afternoon, over 5,000 protesters/picnickers turned up. The event was such a success that Brussels city officials agreed to maintain the new tradition each Sunday.

Now, all we need is some lovely summer weather to encourage leisurely bike rides through the city center, but I suppose we need to pick out battles...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 2012- Brussels

A second Belgian cultural lesson: pick your macrobrew! Yesterday was the Flemish national holiday, and aside from a day off, multiple concerts were staged all around Brussels. We stopped into the local nightshop to pick up a beer for the concert (held on Grote Markt/Grand Place in central Brussels) and I noticed all four of us reach immediately for Jupiler. 

Most well-known outside of Belgium is Stella-Artois, brewed in lovely Leuven, but lately we've favored Jupiler, the Brussels macro. Others include Maes, Primus, and if lucky enough to visit the Limburg province, Cristal. This brilliant selection of pils macrobrews has one caveat: your taste preferences often dictate your favorite cafes, as each signs an exclusive contract with the macro producer. No Miller AND Bud on tap here- you have to pick your poison before picking your watering hole.

More from around Brussels:

 Booker T on the keyboards outside the AB

 Comic murals around Les Marolles

 Concert on Grote Markt/Grand Place