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An interview with Brussels Capital Region, winner of the 8th SUMP Award

28 July 2020

Bruno Van Loveren, Strategy and Programming Director, Mobility Planning Authority, Brussels Capital Region (Belgium) spoke to us about winning the 8th sustainable urban mobility planning (SUMP) Award, what it means to the city, and shares advice he would give to other cities looking to follow in their footsteps.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to the Brussels Capital Region winning the SUMP award? What does winning the SUMP Award mean to the city?

Unfortunately, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated containment, it is difficult to describe whether a buzz, if there was one, happened. We were all isolated and everything took place remotely - even the announcement of the award itself took place online and we followed it on Twitter.

We would have preferred to receive the award at the ceremony, as it was originally planned - it would have been an opportunity to exchange with the other finalists. However, we received numerous messages of congratulations from many different sectors, including the political world. 

We are obviously very proud to have received this award, especially since we also won it three years ago for our logistics schemes. For those of us who work in the planning department, it's a great reward and confirmation that our approach is relevant and recognised as such.

This is in fact the third SUMP that has been developed for Brussels. The results of the first two are mixed, without taking away their quality. We were all convinced that this one was different and is going to change things - this award is a nice validation of that.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process of designing your SUMP? What was it, do you think, that appealed to the Jury?

I would like to quote the words of the jury, which underline the way our SUMP conceives the city as an ecosystem, and the impressive participation system that has been put in place. These two elements, in my opinion, are intimately linked. It is through involving all stakeholders and listening to citizens that we have been able to gradually take into account all the dimensions of the mobility policy.

The system put in place is in fact unprecedented, at least for Brussels, in terms of its scope, its duration and the diversity of the public that we wanted to involve in the approach. It is this process itself that has led us to put aside an overly technical approach to mobility and to refocus on users, their needs, and above all their living environment.

This participatory approach is a key to the success of SUMP and, we hope to its implementation. The overwhelming majority of stakeholders recognise the value of the process, that they were able to express themselves and that they were heard, even if they do not always agree with some of the measures.

What advice would you give to cities that are looking to follow in your footsteps and win the SUMP Award?

Every city and region is different and I do not know to what extent Brussels can be an example. We are in any case open and interested in exchanging with other cities in a more in-depth way. It is also an opportunity to talk about what we have done wrong, which I am not going to discuss here, as after all we just won the SUMP Award!

If I had to give some general advice, first of all I would say that this is a long-term process - more than three years as far as we are concerned, which has to be prepared accordingly. As with all projects that take a long time, we must also accept that there will be changes along the way. The SUMP Guidelines developed by the European Commission are an interesting resource from this point of view. Of course, I say this when we ourselves did not take them into account at all, or rather, when we found out a posteriori that we had unknowingly followed them.

Finally, in order to make a process of this magnitude successful, objectives and a clear guideline are needed. From this point of view, political support, which can be limited to a simple lack of interference, is absolutely essential.