The Brussels Bike Hundred

100 portraits, stories and bicycles

We’re teaming up with Bike for Brussels to put together a 100-strong selection of local heroes shaping the city each in their own way. From designers and DJs to performers and publishers, these are the creatives riding Brussels forward.

Nelson Polfliet

Nelson Polfliet, 1989

filmmaker

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I’m fresh out of film school, a debuting filmmaker and production manager at one of Brussels most innovative art centres, Kaaitheater. Recent short films of mine have been screened at about 25 festivals worldwide, and I’ve won awards at Jeugdfilmfestival van België, cellu l’art International Short Film Festival Jena, Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and the Best Script Award at Bucharest International Film Festival. I was born in Brussels, raised in Flanders’ no-man’s-land Liedekerke, and moved back to Brussels for studies and work about nine years ago. I’m currently doing the final edits for my next short film In the Palace.

How has Brussels shaped you as an individual as well as your professional activities?

Honestly, I’ve always seen Brussels as the only Belgian city where I could live. It’s the city that hardly every sleeps, for better or worse. Unlike most parts of Belgium, Brussels isn’t boring and that’s a good start for a city – feeling alive. As I was orphaned at quite a young age, I wasn’t doing very well financially nor emotionally when I arrived in Brussels as a 19-year-old. The anonymity of the city allowed me to find the reboot I needed and start a new chapter, while at the same time I was able to slowly work my way up to practicing my passions. I started working in Kaaitheater’s cloakroom and in a small shop in the Rue Neuve / Nieuwstraat neighbourhood. This allowed me to pay rent and put some money aside to pay for my first short films at RITCS and later LUCA School of Arts. I also seized opportunities career-wise and became a performance coordinator at Kaaitheater before going on to become production manager. Brussels made me, while at the same time helping me grow. It offered me the inspiration, the education and the people I needed in life and work.

A city needs parks and trees, and I’m very happy to be living so close to one of Brussels’ most beautiful parks.

List three things you like the most about Brussels, bike-related or not.

  • My favourite place in Brussels is without any question the Josaphat neighbourhood in Schaerbeek. A city needs parks and trees, and I’m very happy to be living so close to one of Brussels’ most beautiful parks.
  • Our local art scene is something to be very proud of. With companies and artists such as Radouan Mriziga, Rosas, Peeping Tom, Wim Vandekeybus, Needcompany, Mette Edvardsen and so many others, Brussels is a flourishing cultural landscape. It is and will hopefully grow further yet as a nursery for creativity.
  • As a third suggestion, I like how Brussels consists of so many neighbourhoods within neighbourhoods. In Schaerbeek, I notice a growing feeling of community, with people starting district committees, planting trees in their streets and even organising a soapbox race in Josaphat Park. With so many people coexisting so closely, it’s important to at least get to know each other a bit and treat the community with respect. The time when people just throw their garbage anywhere on the street and street race all night long will hopefully soon be over. Brussels can be a playing field for everyone as long as people have a positive interpretation of what “playing” actually means.

List three deciding factors that converted you to bicycle use.

  • In times of accelerating climate change, completely congested roads and streets smelling like soot, biking is in my opinion the only acceptable mode of transportation.
  • A disproportionately big amount of space is being taken by cars and parking spots, and I want to be part of the counterbalance; the group of people not always relying on their car. I want to show the people of Brussels that biking is by far the easiest, quickest and healthiest way of transportation within the city. I literally do everything by bike, even when I need to go out of the city.
  • Although biking in Brussels may be very stressful – you literally need eyes in the back of your head – and your lungs may sometimes be filled with exhaust gasses, I think biking is the most liberating way of transportation. I like the independence I have, different from any other means of transport: public transport timetables, looking for a parking spot or being stuck in traffic. Biking to work, feeling the wind in your hair and your muscles move is the perfect start to the day.
vimeo.com/nelsonpolfliet