The concept of the "Calmed City" is emerging as a concrete response to the growing challenges of congestion and air pollution. At the heart of this vision, public transport, soft mobility and the organisation of urban services appear to be the main levers of an urban policy that favours environmentally friendly modes of transport and redesigns urban spaces to make them more pleasant to live in. A calmer city is first and foremost a question of mobility.
In France, no city, large or small, seems to be spared from this movement to reclaim the city centre. A genuine ecological response to the "all-car" movement of the last century, its main aim is to reduce the role of the car in favour of virtuous modes of transport - public transport, soft mobility, low-emission vehicles (*see box) - in order to give the city back to its inhabitants or, better still, to reconcile it with its users. In practical terms, a calmer city must be able to control the flow of traffic, but it must also be able to bring the crèche closer to the baby, the workplace closer to the worker, the service closer to the citizen.
From Lyon (**see box) to Annecy and Le Mans, local authorities are competing with each other in their ingenuity to give walking, cycling (***see box), electric scooters and all other low-impact forms of transport the place they deserve.
A highly political issue, this green wave on which so many local authorities are surfing is not without its detractors. By drastically restricting the flow of cars into the heart of the metropolis, some people cannot help but see it as a sign of the exclusion of the suburbs, the consequence of which would have no other name than... social segregation. But this is not true. Road congestion has always existed. All you have to do is open a new urban road in a suburb and sooner or later it will be saturated with cars. The miracle solution is a mirage, a gamble, a fantasy. What counts for the success of projects is the bargaining chip! Understanding the gridlock caused by car congestion in towns and cities, the advantages of the proposed alternative, clearly identifying the benefits for the residents and businesses who contribute to the funding of these projects - the legitimate counterpart of the money paid out, making it possible to fulfil all the desires called tramways. Local authorities have spared no expense in this area. Virtually every town in France now has one or more exclusive public transport lines, projects to which Egis has made a major contribution in recent years (**** see box).
Decarbonising city centres
As an alternative to our over-reliance on private cars, a quieter city is also one that reduces its carbon footprint. Even in the post-industrial era, internal combustion engines are still the main emitters of greenhouse gases, so we need to decarbonise our public transport network. Pollution is one of the reasons why, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, France's major cities opted for trams rather than buses, which at that time were mainly diesel-powered. Today, the situation has changed and it is not uncommon for a number of local authorities to consider Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) solutions (***** see box) which, for certain levels of traffic, can provide full satisfaction in terms of commercial speed, CO2 emissions and integration into the road network.
A favourable context
There's no denying it: the reason why projects to reduce the number of cars in towns and cities are gaining ground all over France is because they're so popular! Judging by the number of projects in progress, planned or under study, the market could not be more buoyant. From pre-project to commissioning, Egis is able to carry out between 80% and 100% of the tasks entrusted to it in this field, whether it be feasibility studies for the realisation of projects or project management for their implementation. In terms of business volume, this is a development opportunity for Egis, which has a very wide range of skills in the fields of traffic management, urban development and transport systems.
The planned systemisation of the electric vehicle will add a new unknown to the equation. While the idea may still seem a little futuristic, it's clear that tomorrow's postcard is more science than fiction. Whether Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) or his great admirer Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) like it or not, the challenges of electromobility will not be without problems of integration into the city. For example, the initial groundswell of support eventually backfired on another major emerging player in mobility: the electric scooter. In Paris, it even lost the popular vote.
Finally, climate change will force all stakeholders to rethink public spaces to adapt to major heat waves. In the future, the cooling of cities, particularly through greening, will undoubtedly join mobility as a new major challenge for the tranquil city. Needless to say, Egis is ready to meet this challenge!