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.
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.
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.