Brussels Encourages Commuters To Hitchhike Instead Of Driving To Work To Reduce Congestion

Rush hour traffic slowly makes its way through central Brussels past the European Union Commission headquarters on April 28, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

In Brussels, Belgium, the local government is attempting to reduce traffic congestion in cities by encouraging commuters to hitchhike to work instead of driving, reports The Guardian.

The practice of hitchhiking would come in digital form instead of the typical standing on the side of the road with a thumb raised and would be regulated by authorities. Brussels contains some of the most congested roads in all of Europe with the average driver spending around 85 hours a year stuck in traffic, which means a journey will take an estimated 37 percent longer than it should.

To resolve the congestion issue, a start-up tech company is currently working on designing an app that would match up drivers with spare seats in their car with those who do not have a ride or would prefer catching a ride. The Brussels capital region government would support this app by promoting it through its own official travel app.

The app would differ from already existing carpool and rideshare apps, such as popular ride-sharing app Uber, in that it would ensure that no money is exchanged between hitchhikers and drivers. Local officials are under pressure from MPs to ensure that the app stays true to this concept.

An MP in the Brussels parliament whose Socialist party is part of the governing Left-Green coalition, Julien Uyttendaele, spoke about the idea behind the app. Uyttendaele commented that traditional hitchhiking practices have been misused and that the app will revive these long-gone hitchhiking practices.

Man hitchhikes on side of road.
  Atlas Green / Unsplash

“The goal here is not to have a business logic like BlaBlaCar or UberPOP but to offer an app that would allow drivers to get in touch with passengers who want to share part of their journey for free.”

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“Hitchhiking has become obsolete and the logic of bringing a stranger into the vehicle is considered insecure. But via new technologies, this measure would help in the fight against the damage we are inflicting upon ourselves,” the MP added.

Uyttendaele also believes that hitchhiking has been misused because of an increasingly individualistic culture. He says that if he were to use a hitchhiking app, he would want to know that it is run by the administration or a non-profit association and not by a commercial organization.

In order for Brussels to resolve its extreme traffic congestion problems, they aim to reduce passenger cars on roads by 20 percent. The city is also looking into implementing a congestion charge that would, in theory, act as a deterrent to motorists.