Urban mobility, sustainable mobility: what is the link?

Environmental issues are numerous and the impact of human travel is one of them. Indeed, whether in the countryside or in the city,travel generates greenhouse gas emissions and the use of more or less responsible energy. The impact of these issues on the environment is significant. This occurs at the design stage of the means of transport, during its use and at the end of its life. This is called the product life cycle and it also concerns the different means of travel: by bike, scooter, motorcycle, car, bus, streetcar or metro.

In the past, transportation was limited to the use of cars or motorized vehicles whose roads strongly affected the development of cities. This system created endless traffic jams and considerable pollution, which led French city dwellers to rethink their travel habits. The individual means of transportation that are the lowest in GHG emissions, but also the best for health, are walking, cycling and scootering. On the other hand, this requires more time and a more reasonable distance than by motorized vehicle. This is why other means of transportation are just as beneficial in everyday life.

Different criteria come into play when it comes to getting around the city, so check out our overview of urban mobility.

Quel lien entre la mobilité urbaine et la mobilité durable ?-1

Sustainable mobility

Sustainable mobility consists in taking into account environmental issues in the way we travel. Global warming no longer needs to be demonstrated and has been supported since the last century by scientific bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A trip can be a simple round trip to the local market as well as a long-haul flight across the world. There are therefore many recommendations to make travel less impactful for the planet. In France, this evolution translates into recommendations such as: avoiding air travel as soon as possible, reducing car travel, preferring to use an electric or hybrid car, favoring walking and cycling or electric scooters, etc.

This is not easy and sustainable mobility requires financial, human and urban efforts. These efforts have been supported, among others, by the government, by many environmental NGOs, but also recently by companies and start-ups working on sustainability.

The development of multiple innovations and improvements is now taking place at different scales: development of electric or hydrogen cars and buses, development of train and carpooling offers, retrofitting of various vehicles (buses, boats, snow groomers) or even the development of electric planes.

Although they are favorable for innovation and for the environment, these innovations represent a budget for individuals as well as for companies, which is why the French government offers various financial aids and bonuses to facilitate this transition and make it more accessible. Private companies also see great opportunities and are developing their offers to provide the appropriate facilities such as charging stations for electric vehicles, now present on highways as well as in suburban areas. Others are focusing their efforts on activities such as carpooling.

Urban mobility

Since the rise of large cities, urban mobility has been a key issue. It allows people to get where they want to go as easily and quickly as possible while satisfying the greatest number of people. Urban mobility contributes greatly to the attractiveness of cities. The term "urban mobility" includes all the means implemented by city councils and companies to facilitate the movement of people within a city, a conurbation or a metropolis. Depending on its location, a city and its service providers will therefore offer different means of transport

  • collective: bus, metro, tramway ;
  • individual: bicycle, scooter, car, car cabs and motorcycle cabs;
  • semi-collective: transport services with driver by car shared with other users.

In France, this type of transport is more or less developed according to the mobility policies of the cities concerned. The system is generally simple. Transportation is used by means of (physical or virtual): hourly, daily, or weekly tickets; daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly subscriptions; payment by the trip or by the kilometer. The costs of such transport vary according to the offer, the volume of users, the situation of each user and the nature of the provider (public, private or semi-private). There are sometimes preferential fares for children, teenagers and students, but also for senior citizens, who are increasingly fond of these modes of transport.

However, travel by public transport can become a daily constraint: waiting times, strikes, essential advance planning, limited tranquility, large crowds, etc. It is for these reasons, and increased demand from users, that cities and companies have been developing their individual urban transport offerings. There are many modes of individual urban transport: conventional bicycle, electric bicycle, folding bicycle, electric scooter or car for rent.

Individuals also purchase some of these individual urban transport modes. It is common to see gyropods, folding bikes or classic bikes or electric scooters in big cities. They are more and more affordable and convenient to transport. There is something for everyone: classic, electric, folding. Whether the user wishes to use them daily or occasionally, sporty or effortlessly, for a short or medium distance, there is something for everyone.

Quel lien entre la mobilité urbaine et la mobilité durable ?-2

The link between urban mobility and sustainable mobility

Sustainable mobility and urban mobility are intrinsically linked. The constraints of one affect the constraints of the other. For example, a city with poorly developed urban mobility and poorly optimized planning leads its citizens to use their own cars and is therefore less sustainable and more polluted. On the other hand, a city with a well-developed and varied urban mobility system allows city dwellers to leave their personal vehicles behind and enjoy the pleasure of using more responsible, less polluting and less tiring urban transport. The first link is therefore that urban mobility development policies generate sustainable mobility.

The second link is that the development of urban mobility is accelerated by sustainable mobility. Indeed, customer demand, company supply and government policies on sustainable development, and therefore on sustainable mobility, are stronger every year. City dwellers want to travel in an environmentally responsible way, quickly, pleasantly and at a lower cost. The government is demanding that cities take responsibility for urban mobility issues, but also that they optimize it. Companies are proposing solutions that can be adapted to everyone while being responsible. These interests converge and allow the development of a sustainable, wide and fast urban mobility.

This convergence sheds light on an important point of this subject: attractiveness. A city in which urban mobility is sustainable is now considered attractive. In addition to being able to respond more closely to the needs of each user, because it allows :

  • move around with less planning of the means of transport (parking, schedules, gasoline) ;
  • transition to a more responsible mobility (with less oil and more electric);
  • to live in a more airy city, more fluid and less polluted by cars;
  • be healthier: if urban mobility is well developed and sustainable, it will provide less fatigue than in a car where vigilance and patience are essential.

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