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.

Ryan Le Garrec

Ryan Le Garrec, 1979

filmmaker

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I’m one of the 10,000 or so French expats invading Brussels, but I actually first came here about 17 years ago. My wife and son are Belgian, and I myself have never lived anywhere else for as long as I have in Brussels. I’ve been a filmmaker since 2003 when I first moved to Sweden, after failing cinema studies, worked in theatre and dance before following Damien Rice on a world tour. In 2007, I came back to Brussels to settle down and work at tvbrussel as well as with various artists such as Wim Vandekeybus, Chantal Thomas and Sarah Basha.

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

Brussels gave me love, a home, a family, a new set of hopes and the possibility to not obsess over style and status like we tend to in Paris. Brussels gave me the freedom and opportunity to be an artist rather than a misfit. Brussels has always been cool in a highly uncool way, like fluorescent garments or skinny jeans worn too high; it’s unaware, unconscious, spontaneous and free. I find it tends to get a bit more uptight every year… Blame the French – my wife does!

My bike is an instrument of freedom; and freedom sometimes starts with a good escape plan.

List three things you like the most about Brussels.

  • I’ve been coproducing and directing a TV show about the city through portraits and lifestyle reports, so I tend to have a fair grasp of what’s going on behind closed doors – whether it be in Matonge or backstage at BOZAR, the Turkish neighbourhood to the Flemish hype, Marolles to Molenbeek, Ancienne Belgique to the woods!
  • I’ve been a bike messenger for PedalBXL for a while now, the city’s first bicycle courier service, so I only ride through shortcuts. I also know how to dodge an uphill climb, or where I can find free coffee and tap water.
  • Every time we go on a holiday to paradise-like places with our son, his first words as we land back home are, “I love Brussels”. As a dad you tend to love whatever suits your kid, from Lego monsters to garbage trucks – your world is redefined through your toddler’s eyes.

List three deciding factors that converted you to bicycle use.

  • It’s harder to bike in Brussels than it is in Paris, London or any other major European cities. There’s a lack of consideration from the state and especially car drivers, so you have to fight your way over rail tracks, between angry bus drivers and amongst inconsiderate car drivers all the time, knowing deep down that you’re actually doing all of them a favour. After all, not only is cycling clean, but we’re also not blocking anyone; come rain, snow or sunshine.
  • STIB / MIVB is the best public transport system in the world.
  • I go nowhere by car and if I were to, I’d be late, stressed and annoyed for the rest of the day. Instead, I’m fresh (if not sometimes slightly sweaty), happy, exhilarated and energised for the rest of my day.

What are your favourite bike routes in Brussels?

I like any route that takes me out to the wonderful countryside, whether it’s to Pajotteland, Leuven or along the canals to Ghent. My bike is an instrument of freedom and freedom sometimes starts with a good escape plan. A great way to leave is through the Sonian Forest, Brussels’ underestimated green lungs. Lots of my friends get out via the canal, which is a fast and secured way. I also like to ride towards Vilvoorde, where some areas are bleak and depressing, but from a filmic point of view are highly inspiring for their gloomy, asymmetric and random disillusioned beauty.

ryanlegarrec.com