In 2017, at request of Pascal Smet, then Minister of Mobility, Brussels Mobility launched the assignment to create a connection for pedestrians and cyclists under the Van Praet, Jules de Trooz and Sainctelette bridges along the canal. This assignment was supervised by the chief architect of the Brussels-Capital Region. In the evaluation of the applications, the jury considered both mobility and urban planning criteria. In June, the contract was definitively assigned to the design agency Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, based in Leuven. The entire (legal) procedure has now been completed. The design team also consists of Util Structural Engineering, LandInZicht, Buro Move and ARA and won the selection because it strongly emphasises the integration of the walking and cycling connections within the surrounding public space.
The cycle route along the canal is one of the busiest in Brussels. Thanks to the new connections under the Van Praet, Jules de Trooz and Sainctelette bridges, thousands of cyclists will be able to travel faster and safer through the city. This canal route is not only part of the Regional Cycle Network and the Cycle Regional Express Network but also of the European REVER-cycle network. It creates an important connection with the city centre and not only crosses other cycle routes in thirteen different places but also the Green Walk, both in the northern and the southern part of the city.
The winning design team chose to gradually lower and widen the canal quays at the level of the three bridges. This creates a slow descent of the public spaces along the water and ensures a smooth passage under the existing bridges. Sloping surfaces ensure that the connections are naturally integrated in the surrounding public space.
"The connections along the canal are a great example of how we plan the Brussels of tomorrow,’ says Pascal Smet. ‘We create a lot of space for pedestrians and cyclists and we ensure a perfect integration of the connections in the surrounding public space. For example, the existing park will be upgraded at the level of the Jules de Trooz bridge and there will be a new, lowered square close to the water that will offer a panoramic view of the Vergote dock," Pascal Smet, State Secretary for Urbanism.
‘I am really pleased that the project has been launched. The cycle path along the canal is among the most used in Brussels. It forms an essential axis in the Regional Express Network and in the European cycling network. Thanks to the three new connections along the canal, thousands of cyclists will be able to cross the city more quickly and safely. It is great to see that the cycle network is becoming a reality and that everyone can use the bike daily as a comfortable and safe alternative," Elke Van den Brandt, Minister for Mobility and Public Works.
The selected design respects the principles of the visual quality plan of the entire canal area. The materials and street furniture to be used will contribute to a good integration of the connections in the neighbourhood and to a visual coherence along the canal. Not only aesthetics and the comfort of pedestrians and cyclists are included in the design, but also the feeling of safety. That is achieved, among other things, by the open character and appropriate lighting.
The connections under the bridges will be neatly integrated in other ongoing projects in the surroundings, such as the redevelopment of the Sainctelette square.
Together, the three projects are expected to cost around 5 million euro (excl. VAT), of which about one third will be financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
The agency will now concretise the design for the three connections in order to submit a building permit application quickly.