In France, the Parliamentary Bill on “combating climate change and increasing resilience to its effects” (also known as the "Climate and Resilience" Bill) is currently being examined by Parliament. Article 27 of this bill includes provisions relating to the mandatory introduction of low-emission mobility zones (ZFE-m) in urban areas with more than 150,000 inhabitants by 31 December 2024. In concrete terms, this means that the most polluting vehicles will no longer be able to circulate freely in certain predefined zones.
A more rational use of the car in the city.
Although the bill currently under discussion should give a boost to the LEZs throughout France, this is not a new concept. Prior to this text, several cities had already started thinking about restricted traffic zones with the help of Egis: Lille, Arras, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Saint-Etienne, etc.
It is true that the car has acquired a particularly important presence in the city, even though it takes up less space than it did several decades ago. In this respect, I am always struck by the extent to which cars are omnipresent in certain photos from the 1960s and 1970s: in Paris, the Place de la Concorde looked more like a car park than a thoroughfare!
Whatever the case, the challenge today is to bring about a better sharing of urban space. This is of course an ecological imperative; it is the whole purpose of low-emission zones, which limit the access of the most polluting vehicles as a priority.
Towards a better quality of life.
But this is not their only goal. It is also a question of quality of life (with the reduction of noise pollution), attractiveness (for tourism, for example) or safety (with fewer potentially dangerous vehicles for other users), in order to build a calmer city.
We are collectively beginning to realise that urban space is a scarce resource that belongs equally to motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and even scooter users! This may seem obvious, but it is an explosive topic in many cities.
In Paris, for example, the multiple measures implemented in recent years to reduce car use (pedestrianisation of the river banks, ban on traffic for vehicles with Crit'air 4 and 5 stickers weekdays between 8am and 8pm, the planned pedestrianisation of Paris city centre in 2022, etc.) have given rise to strong opposition, for various reasons: these measures would mainly target lower-income populations (who would not be able to afford a new vehicle), they would lead to a transfer of congestion to other roads, and above all, they would be ineffective or even counter-productive from an environmental point of view.
The idea is not to go into the details of these critiques, but to bear them in mind when starting to think about new low emission zones in dozens of French cities. These LEZs are indeed a great opportunity to radically rethink the transport offering in these communities for better sharing between users.
New opportunities for smart mobility solutions.
Obviously, the answer does not lie in simply reducing the number of authorised vehicles without diversifying the mobility service offering. There are many solutions: park and ride, increased public transport services, improved facilities for cyclists or users of more environmentally friendly modes of transport - car sharing, carpooling, electric vehicles, etc.
These measures must be the subject of a robust study phase: preliminary studies to determine the expected social, environmental and health benefits, as well as opportunity and feasibility studies to propose accompanying measures and simulate several scenarios. They must also be accompanied by a phase of consultation with all the publics concerned to ensure their social acceptability.
Finally, local authorities must also provide for a monitoring system to ensure that access restrictions are properly applied. Solutions exist, notably with Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) cameras, the technology of which is perfectly mastered by players such as Egis, based on our experience as operators of free-flow toll booths, parking enforcement or speed control.
We now have the wherewithal to make these low-emission zones a success for everyone, with better environmental performance, a diversified transport offering and safer and more fairly-shared urban space. Egis' teams are already at work in many cities; we both delighted and proud to support these developments!