Gael Berthoud, director of Serema Mediterraneo: “We need to review the paradigms in urban space planning”

TPBM: Hyper-mobility fueled by the rise of the automobile has shaped the layout of cities over the past 50 years. An argument whose limits we are touching today. What is the situation in the metropolis of Aix-Marseille?

Gael Berthoud:AGAM (Urban Planning Agency for Marseille Conurbation) and AUPA (Pays d’Ex Durance Urban Planning Agency) have recently published the results of the latest “Cerema Certified Mobility Survey” (EMC2). Twelve years after the previous one, this diagnosis, carried out by the Métropole Aix-Marseille Provence (AMP) in partnership with the State and the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône, makes it possible to obtain a picture of the evolution of travel. Created by residents of metropolitan areas. There is a slight decrease in mobility with 3.4 daily trips per person in 2020 compared to 3.9 in 2009. This is certainly higher than the national average (three trips/day) but lower than the Île-de-France figure (3.9). Over a decade, we made 6.7 to 6.3 million trips to the AMP region (2009 vs. 2019). At the same time, the length of this metropolitan journey has been shortened: from 23.2 km to 21 km. In Aix-en-Provence, the distance traveled per day fell from 25.1 km to 21.6 km and in Marseille from 16.4 km to 14.6 km.

Despite this slight reduction in mobility, each resident of Aix-Marseille still spends more than an hour and 13 minutes per day on their commute, a duration similar to that of other major cities. Incarceration and societal changes with the rise of teleworking clearly explain this decline. What will happen when the health crisis is behind us? Even if the time devoted to mobility decreases by five minutes over ten years in AMP, it is still too early to draw firm conclusions about the sustainability of this phenomenon.

There are many reasons to move…

These reasons can be divided into four main families: travel related to employment and education, travel related to accommodation, loop trips related to shopping, delivery and other daily needs and finally travel for leisure and occasional trips with family, friends…

As land prices rose, residents did not hesitate to move away from their workplaces in search of housing. This development made possible by automobility obviously lengthened travel times while making it increasingly difficult to establish integrated public transport networks.

Added to this are sociological developments: the aging of the population calls into question this distance from city amenities; The younger generation, more sensitive to climate issues, no longer has the systematic reflex of passing a driving license; Declining household sizes as a result of increased separate living means car ownership rates have steadily declined over the past twenty years. Autosolism has evolved and with it traffic jams and pollution marches. This explains the thrombosis of the road network which has nevertheless been greatly modernized in the last half century.

The amount of time each resident of Aix-Marseile spends each day commuting is similar to that observed in other major cities. (Credit: Mathilde Collin)

Will the generalization of telework reduce mobility?

Yes and no. Telework reduces the length of the commute. But it increases micro-mobility in its surroundings, even increasing the distance between home and employment… Let me explain: the workers of Bouches-du-Rhône moved to settle in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in the area near the railway station and during the week Don’t hesitate to take the long train trip to visit their company headquarters once or twice.

What about the impact of e-commerce?

The development of home delivery led to an increased need for urban delivery. Municipalities have to organize last mile logistics. But it’s delusional to think that online commerce reduces the need for travel: Amazon has offsite warehouses that often have to be delivered by heavy goods vehicles. at the endWe shift… carbon footprints.

The emergence of new soft mobility, bicycles, walking, scooters… invites us to rethink the layout of cities. How?

It needs to be thought at two scales: fast cities and slow cities composed of large networks and local spaces. In this quarter-hour city, the modal shift occurs at two levels: walking for journeys of less than one kilometre, cycling or scooters for journeys of less than 10 kilometres. These soft modes have a zero carbon footprint and have beneficial effects on health. It remains to adapt the public space for their use.

Some cities are far ahead in this field: Métropole du Grand Lyon, for example, has set up a true express network of 12 cycle lines, inspired by the bus network. The main objective of the project is to make cycling trips safer thanks to wider and safer cycle paths. For this, the tracks will be on their own site, separate from roads and footpaths, following a continuous path with less potential obstacles. Appropriate surfaces (asphalt, asphalt, concrete) as well as equipment (inflation stations, water fountains etc.) will also be installed along the various axes to make the journey more enjoyable.

All in all, 12 lines, planned as a public transport network, taking into account the uses, will see the light of day by 2026. They will serve the most frequented destinations in 40 municipalities with the aim that three quarters of residents are less than 10 minutes away. By bike from a dedicated lane.

The development of soft modes requires adapting public space to their use. (Credit: Mathilde Collin)

For journeys of more than 10 km, heavy vehicles are essential. Beyond the end of heat engines announced for 2035, what are the solutions to reduce their energy footprint?

answer” By more infrastructure Not necessarily the right one anymore. With periurbanization, agglomerations become more dispersed. Deploying heavy transport networks takes a lot of time… and money. Solutions are rather found in intermodality and digital services. Digital self-service or car-sharing cycle systems make it possible to organize. We can also set up hybrid solutions that combine private and collective use, such as reserved lanes for carpooling installed in cities such as Paris and Lyon.

In the capital of Gaul, local authorities have developed an app that allows users to see in real time if a carpooler is less than 10 minutes from their location. The service is free for passengers and the driver is remunerated. This dedicated line is installed on one of the main axes of the conglomerate and acts like a bus line with dedicated stops for carpooling. Reliability meets: The service attracts motorists, the user is assured of having a car in less than 10 minutes. The system doesn’t involve heavy work: all you have to do is reserve a lane on a major axis, like the bus lanes recently built by the state on the Aix-Marseille motorway with engineering support from Ceremar.

The development of intermodality is also a key: for this, it is necessary to develop hubs located at the intersection of exchange hubs, public transport networks and cycle paths where the user has access to third places such as a medical office, a micro-creche, a co-working space, a network of short circuits, etc.

We can also imagine building interchanges on motorways, as is the practice with some of our neighbours. It refers to deviance from the regulatory framework that governs, for example, the hard shoulder (BAU). Serema is precisely the best place to conduct this kind of reflection. And this development must be applied at all levels of the road network: motorways, national and regional roads, but also urban roads.

Finally, if we want to develop the use of active modes (bicycle, walking, etc.), we must review our paradigms in urban space planning: support soft modes, think about the reorganization of mobility and parking, anticipating conflicts of use, residents and shoppers. Listening to expectations that often contradict, rethinking the surroundings of places like schools that make micro-trips so that their front streets are not transformed into car parks every time they return to class and leave school, etc. In Paris, the city “School Street” Organized, systems that reserve the road for active mobility in front of school groups. Born in Belgium, popular in the UK, Cerema supports local authorities in installing this device, which originated in France.

Can innovation contribute to the emergence of new forms of mobility?

We support experiments in many areas verifying the effectiveness of new processes and/or innovative materials. For example, Colas developed “Flowell,” a system of reflective LED tiles that magnify the strips of pedestrian crossings, encouraging motorists to relax. This system makes it possible to modulate road signaling by converting a continuous line into a broken line depending on the traffic. This dynamic marking can contribute to smooth traffic without major investment. We are also developing a control system for dedicated lanes for carpooling: this involves checking that the dedicated lane is actually used by carpoolers and not by solo drivers. Before penalizing offenders, ensure the reliability of automated control systems. We are working on its certification.

In the same spirit, we are supporting the departmental council of Bouches-du-Rhône to assess the impact of the work it has done on the departmental road network in Chateauneuf-le-Rouge. An innovative project that provides for the use of circular economy processes aiming at the 2EC label [Instrument de droit souple, le label 2EC – Engagement économie circulaire – encourage les pratiques responsables des acteurs du BTP en matière de prévention et de gestion des déchets, et de valorisation des matériaux alternatifs, NDLR]. We examine the true economic impact of materials recycling.

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