People on bicycles ride through the city during Car-Free Sunday which is held as part of Mobility Week in Brussels, Belgium, 17 September 2023. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS


Belgian green party chief left red-faced over car-free Sundays taxi trip


Rajae Maouane, president of Ecolo, the francophone “green” party in Belgium, has been taking flak following an embarrassing confession on TV.

While the politician was praising and encouraging car-free Sunday on September 17 for the public in the country, she had to admit such days are somewhat inconvenient.

After the TV hosts interviewing her asked how she had reached their Brussels’ studios, she replied: “Well, I’m not going to lie, I came by taxi.

“Taking a bicycle to ride for 45 minutes is a bit complicated for me.”

Molenbeek in Brussels, where Maouane said she had departed from, lies just 8km from the RTL TV studios, where she was being interviewed.

A journalist noted however she recently moved, to the city of Brussels, in the affluent Dansaert quarters, known for its many bars, restaurants, and shops.

It also means she lives closer to the TV studios than admitted.

The journalist did the test and rode a bike from the Dansaert Quarters to the RTL TV studios.

It took him less than half of the time Maouane claimed, namely 22 minutes, 19 (and a half) seconds for 5.8 kilometres.

According to the journalist, it should even be faster than by car. He did use an electric bike, but there are plenty of those in a public share system in Brussels, as promoted by the Greens.

Taxis are exempt and are allowed to drive on car-free Sundays and her excuse did not go down well on social media.

Marc-Jean Ghyssels, Brussels MEP for the Socialist party, reacted on X: “Taking a cab on car-free Sunday to give a talk on ecology. Good move.”

Others pointed out she could have taken the subway or a bus, as public transport was still running.

“Do as I say, not as I do”, some posters noted while another lamented the “eternal hypocrisy of the greens”.

Maouane did receive support from Abdel Sabbani, the president of the Brussels cab federation. “All our support to Ms Rajae Maouane setting an example and using Brussels cabs, they are a credible alternative to the personal car allowed on Sundays without a car,” he said.