Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

People First

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 13th October, 2017

IMG_0020It’s hard to imagine these days, but when I first came to live in Brussels, in 1974, the Grand-Place was a gigantic car park, except on market days when stalls replaced the vehicles. That unsatisfactory situation ended years ago, but only a very limited area of the city centre was declared off-limits to cars. Returning to Brussels this week after an absence of a year or so, I’m delighted to discover that a whole big section of the centre has now been pedestrianised, including a long stretch of the Boulevard Anspach. The place has basically been given back to the people (plus bicycles), as it would have been centuries ago. This is, of course, healthier, both because people are encouraged to walk more and because the air quality has been improved by a reduction in vehicle fumes. I can imagine there must have been some resistance from a few businesses in the area, but from the crowds strolling in the warmth of a prolonged Indian summer, it would seem that there has not been a significant decrease in footfall. So, when will the same thing be done in London? Pedestrianisation schemes there have been very modest in comparison; Leicester Square and Carnaby Street come to mind. Oxford Street has been crying out for the treatment for decades. So, Mayor Sadiq Khan, over to you! Come to Brussels and see what has been done here and reflect on whether People First could work as a strategy in central London, too.

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