Life in Brussels could be turned around with a simple measure
One simple solution will improve quality of life in Brussels, reduce pollution and road traffic, while improving social justice. Read on.
On the Ring, on the tiny streets and the large boulevards, on the road leading in and out of the city, at all crossroads of Brussels, people are stuck in traffic.
Cars follow each other, at snail speed, in world-famous jams. The local authorities even dedicated special lanes for busses and taxis, so that these two alternatives find a way into the city.
The situation is not new, nor is it unique to Brussels. But in the Belgian capital, it has been institutionalised into a system that no one dares to address at the root.
Brussels is rigged in traffic, but cars present other challenges: pollution, safety for pedestrians, bikes, and scooters, and ugliness of the urbanism. Many agree that limiting the use of cars is the solution to these problems.
But instead of implementing a ban on old or polluting cars, or gate screenings at the entrance of the city, a simple solution would drastically reduce the number and the negative effects of cars, while leaving the possibility to those who really need them to continue driving. In fact, this solution would reduce traffic so much that it would first benefit the people that cannot do without their personal vehicles.
End the company car system
You just read it. This is my simple and quick fix to Brussels’ traffic and pollution problems.
The company car system is a false good idea. It initially served as a way, for employers, to increase the take-home pay of their Belgian workers without having to pay further social contributions. Nowadays, almost everyone in Belgium has a company car. And fuel is paid for by the employer too. This is a huge advantage for the employee, right?
A rigged system
It would have been a good idea, perhaps, if this system did not come with serious drawbacks. Starting with the simple realisation that if everyone uses their cars to go to work, all at the same time, it will logically lead to enormous traffic delays.
Then pollution: an entire country blowing up a virtually free fuel - paid for by the employer, remember? - is no good news for the planet or children’s lungs.
Going further, one can challenge the intended goal of saving on social contributions. Do you really want your employer to pay less for your pension rights, your social security, the taxes that run your hospitals, your police, and your health system? And for what? A shiny car that could get you killed? Do you think it is wise to let your neighbor pay fewer taxes on a car that could run on your dog?
Now, think about people that cannot enjoy a ride in this system. Low-wage earners, people that do not have a driving license, people whose companies are struggling and cannot afford to run a carpool. Is it fair that, because of the system that profits a few, these people must live in an air-polluted city, fear for their lives every time they cross the street, and must enjoy a town crisscrossed with ugly grey asphalt?
An alternative exists
I am not advocating against an absolute end of company cars in Belgium. First, I am only concerned about Brussels and its center. I understand that inhabitants of remote areas can enjoy a ride paid for by the employer. I can even see it as a duty of the latter.
Second, ending the automatic offer of cars is a good solution for all, starting with those who must use a vehicle. Some jobs require company cars. I want to give the roads back to these people.
The removal of all cars used out of convenience would free up the streets for bikes, electric scooters, buses, and pedestrians. It would clean the air and soil. It would reduce noise pollution to an acceptable level and traffic accidents to a minimum.
What can you do?
A greener, calmer, freer, and overall more livable city is possible. Citizens must realise that their actions have an impact. Collectively, we can decide to end a rigged system that benefits only those who abuse it.
If you consider that car pollution is a real problem in Brussels, and if you want to act, you can raise the question with your local authorities.
I am considering starting up a campaign against the company car system in the near future. If you wish to support, to help, or only to stay in touch, consider registering to The beubble.
And you? What is your suggestion to improve life in Brussels?