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Brussels: Europe’s first CO2-free capital?

Ben Vicca, VP – CGI Belgium
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Ben Vicca

In the Cities in Motion Index (ICIM) for 2017, Brussels is ranked number 44. Not bad at all on a list of 181 cities worldwide. Characteristics of a smart city include sustainability and ‘connectivity’ – being easily accessible locally and internationally.
Yet every day the traffic jam gets worse around Brussels. The roads to and from Brussels seem to be becoming increasingly congested. The outdated tunnels and the increasing number of cars do not help matters. And we haven’t even mentioned the (economic) consequences of all this traffic on the health of the inhabitants and the daily commuters to and from our capital.

Time for action: how can we make public transport, spatial planning and traffic flows in, to and from the capital more efficient and ecological?

Let’s think out loud for a moment. The Car-Free Sunday initiative has already led to the permanent creation of car-free spots in our capital. Thanks to this cooperation between the Brussels-Capital Region and the municipalities, Brussels is the largest car-free area in Europe for one day a year. Why don’t we do this more often? We want more…

Sharing is caring

Cambio car sharing is a good example. It allows individuals to rent a car for a certain period of time. Villo! operates a similar scheme but with bicycles. There are still opportunities: let’s transform the current concepts into sustainable ecological and manageable ones.

Let’s transform Cambio into e-Cambio with a full electric fleet, and Villo! into e-Villo! for medium distances to promote the carpooling or sharing concept for commuters, for example. The city’s (current) outlying or carpool car parks could be converted into Tower car parks with a direct connection to the network of e-Cambio, e-Villo!, metro, tram and bus. The Tower car parks could also offer a Park & Meet space, so you could, for example, move into the city after a morning meeting outside of rush hour.

We could make this concept even more sustainable with big data to spread and optimise traffic flows. A lot of data is collected via sensor technology, camera images and even our smartphones or social media. We could apply the Internet of Things to vehicles (the Vehicle of Things) and, in combination with the available data, automatically route vehicles in motion. Through the efficient use of big data for dynamic traffic management, you could save even more on energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

CO2 reduction

Making the city car-free and CO2-free will have a major impact on health and general well-being. With the combination of an extensive sharing concept, e-vehicles, mapping all data and optimising it with smart technology, we are certainly making progress in an effort to make our mobility and living environment even more sustainable. Our dream: to put Brussels on the map as a city with an eye for nature, health and quality of life.