Tandem creates a brilliant pop-up bicycle café where bikes cannot be ridden

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Tandem bicycle cafe in a park filled w monster trees

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Green spaces and trees create an ideal bicycle café.

I would never have opened a bicycle cafe at the Jean-Felix Hap Park location in Etterbeek. It is off the beaten track, not a cycling thoroughfare, tucked away in a park that is so little known, locals are scarcely aware there is a green space behind the walls. The entry has a poorly displayed – but still there – sign that says riding a bikes is not allowed. And the occasional park warden who will remonstrate some for rolling to the café at the slowest speed. You must dismount. It has just about every element that says it will never work. But Tandem was the bicycle success of the summer. And Brussels only has three more days to enjoy it before the location closes doors and disappears.

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Bicycles at the bike stand outside Tandem pop-up café

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Success by numbers. In the foreground is a Velofabrik bike, another Brussels creation.

The pop-up café has become a daily haven for many. The comfortable open park space, with swathes of green surrounded by monster climbing trees have become a family destination. The cafe was started by a young couple, complete with small children – and they seem to have brought their creche friends to the space. And then yoga classes joined. Family picnics. Children learning to cycle. And parents who can just settle in and disappear in the city.

I lived in Etterbeek for six years and never knew about the park.
“The park is almost empty. If the café were not here, there would be almost nobody in the park.”
And then add the café coordinated events. Book readings for children, mobile libraries, advocacy from Bike Experience, GRACQ and more. Add the Thursday night test rides of Ahooga folding bikes and the information sessions with various invitees and the café provides it is a wider participant than just in name.
©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Bike Experience cargo bike being prepared for an information session

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Cycling advocacy groups also found access to their core audiences through the café.

The bicycle café is the best development in ages. For the park. For Brussels cycling. It has made the park visible to a large, new population. It will close at the end of business September 1, at 21:00. The location is scheduled to be renovated and restored into the original ‘orangerie’ used to store orange, lemon, lime trees over the winter. It would have been wonderful to hear the renovations would allow the café to reappear in coming years. The bicycle café has created a new, sought-after location. It would have added a new dimension to Etterbeek and to the park itself. Instead, the pop-ip style may find a new home.

“We are talking to four other communes about new locations for next year.”
We are in the last three days. Open every day until 20:00. Last night, Sept 1, will go until 21:00.
©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Family on the open green at Jean-Felix Hap park outside the Tandem pop-up café

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Green spaces where families can picnic, kids can climb trees, ride bikes and disappear.

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