On Wednesday 8 June, an innovative type of urban furniture was presented in Merelbeke (BE). The green bicycle bench combines various functions: it is a covered bicycle shed with charging options for e-bikes and at the same time a cooling seat thanks to the vertical green wall and the water-buffering green roof. This type of bicycle bench is a new prototype of urban furniture and unique in Flanders.

The green bicycle bench was created through close collaboration between the Province of East Flanders, local government Merelbeke and manufacturer Sioen. The experiment is part of the European project Cool Towns, which maps heat stress in cities and municipalities and puts forward innovative measures for climate adaptation.

Due to climate change, we are more likely to experience more heat days and heat waves. Urbanized centers then become warmer than the outer areas. Paving, both vertically through buildings and horizontally through streets, squares, car parks, etc. absorbs heat and retains it for a long time. As a result, urban centers do not cool down sufficiently in the evening and at night. This creates heat islands that adversely affect our physical and mental health.

Less surfacing and more greenery are the key spatial recipes for climate adaptation. This approach is not self-evident in urban centers. That is why the partners looked for valuable alternatives that provide cooling, water collection and relaxation.

This bicycle bench shows how we can adapt the layout of public space in cities and municipalities to the changing climate through innovation and technological innovation. Such a green oasis, however limited in size, forms a heat-resistant spot in a paved environment. Here we integrate optimal vertical greenery, cooling water elements, rainwater buffering and carbon-free bicycle mobility in one space-saving construction.” Deputy Riet Gillis, responsible for Climate and Mobility

The paved Driekoningenplein in Merelbeke was chosen as the location for this innovative concept.

The Driekoningenplein is the central place in our municipality: close to the town hall, culture house, commercial center, schools and underground parking. Softening this square for extra green zones is not a matter of course. That is why we experimented with a vertical green wall and a green roof above the bicycle shed. “The concept works sufficiently cooling, it can easily be used elsewhere. I am already curious about the measurement results. Everything comes together nicely with this measure: sustainable mobility, and climate and adaptation plans.” Alderman Tim De Keukelaere, responsible for Environment and Sustainability

Innovative concept

The Provincial Center for Environmental Research of the Province of East Flanders will carry out heat stress measurements at Driekoningenplein in the summer of 2022. The cooling effect of a living green wall on the perceived temperature of passers-by is measured.

This prototype urban furniture is unique in Flanders and was designed by manufacturer Sioen, a specialist in technological textile applications, including GreenTecStyle®, an innovative green wall that combines nature and technology in a smart way.

“At SIOEN, we attach great importance to innovation and sustainable entrepreneurship. SIOEN is constantly looking for innovative and sustainable ways to contribute to society through technical textiles. By applying our GreenTecStyle green facade cloth, this bicycle shed contributes to urban greening, cooling and biodiversity. We are delighted that we have been able to realize this innovative realization in Merelbeke together with our partner and street furniture manufacturer Abribo. We are planning a second variant – a green bench without bicycle parking – in Ostend later this year. Thanks to the financial intervention of Europe and the cooperation of the project partners development of such prototypes is feasible for our company.” Benny Pycke, Product Manager, SIOEN Industries NV

Read the article that the Belgian broadcaster VRT published about this project