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.

Robbrecht Desmet

Robbrecht Desmet, 1985

filmmaker

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I’m an independent filmmaker and a film studies lecturer as well as a researcher at Sint-Lukas in Brussels currently working on a new film project.

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

Brussels is the first, and so far only, place I call home.

List three things you like the most about Brussels.

  • The walk from Sablon/Zavel, where my studio is, all the way downtown to Café Le Coq, one of my favourite bars in town, because it shows what Brussels has to offer.
  • It’s a small big city: you can cross it in just a few hours, you can have dinner in one neighbourhood and go for drinks or a movie in a completely other part of town within half an hour. Also, Brussels seems to escape, to a certain degree, a level of gentrification that most other capital cities can’t. Maybe it has to do with its capricious geography, I don’t know.
  • I don’t care about football that much – or at least I don’t know much about it -, but I do go see a game once in a while. I like the whole area around Astrid Park in Anderlecht, but I like even more the Royale Union Saint-Gilloise field in Duden Park. I’ve been living next to this park for many years and I’ve seen the team move up to the second position in the Belgian Cup. The atmosphere in the whole neighbourhood is just great whenever there’s a game.

List three deciding factors that converted you to bicycle use.

  • I have cycled for as long as I can remember and in many different contexts, so I can’t really remember what converted me. As a teenager, I used to take part to youth racing competitions and I kept cycling both for sports and commuting ever since.
  • A bicycle as a means of transport makes sense in so many ways, especially in Brussels. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to move around. I have commuted by bike ever since I moved to Brussels, despite the city’s hills and car-oriented infrastructure.
  • Most of my artistic work and PhD project are directly linked to Brussels landscapes and I do a lot of fieldwork by bike.

List three favourite bike routes in Brussels.

  • Quite unsurprisingly, one of the many short or long Sonian Forest loops will without a doubt always be on top of my cycling excursions list. I recently went for a few rides through and around the forest at the crack of dawn, up to Waterloo Lion’s Mound and back. I cycled in and around most of the European cities I’ve been to and I can’t think of another city than Brussels with such rich and varied green surroundings so close to its heart.
  • I wouldn’t call it a favourite but my daily commute is probably my most significant cycling activity. I live around Altitude 100, my studio is near to the Palace of Justice and the campus where I teach is in Schaerbeek. This is the trajectory I cover most days of the week, so I cross a great deal of the city’s most challenging roads and finish the day with some groceries before I go to pick up my daughter at daycare and pedal all the way up to Altitude 100. I constantly make small changes to my route to try and make it more efficient and safer.
  • I love cycling through the city at night after a night out or a movie. From the city centre homewards, it’s quite a ride and mostly uphill but, it’s most enjoyable once you’re at it.