What are the challenges of new modes of transportation in urban areas?

Faced with a growing population, the cost of conventional vehicles, environmental awareness and the desire of citizens for a safer and healthier living environment, cities must act to change mobility. The place of the car is being questioned, while public transport is sometimes considered too absent.

We can then ask ourselves what solutions are available for urban mobility today and tomorrow. What do they have to offer? Are they 100% advantageous? These are crucial questions for thefuture of cities, which are destined to continue to grow over the decades.

À quels enjeux répondent les nouvelles solutions de mobilité urbaine ?-1

Promoting mobility that meets all needs

In the same city, a wide variety of people live together: from teenagers to working people to retirees, from singles to couples, including families, from city dwellers in the center of town to residents of surrounding neighborhoods or even further away. These are all different lifestyles and different ways of getting around, which constitute a real challenge for the elected officials of France's cities. The aim is to offer all city dwellers the comfort and freedom to move around, but also to make public services and shops accessible to all and toavoid social compartmentalization.

The new mobility solutions can partly meet these needs, through the following aspects

  • Motorized Personal Mobility Devices (electric scooters, gyropods, etc.) are accessible from the age of 12, allowing young people to move around more easily in urban spaces, without the need for an adult behind the wheel of a vehicle;
  • These solutions facilitate multimodality, allowing the development of a more extensive transport network;
  • the use of bicycles or scooters, combined with bicycle lanes and dedicated parking areas, provides easier and closer access to transportation. Where a light rail line serves specific stops, MPTs allow people to travel from point A to point B of their choice.

However, it should not be forgotten that these new mobilities are not totally inclusive. For the elderly or people with disabilities, the gyropod, the gyroroue or the scooter is not an accessible mode of transport. Their development must not be at the expense of public transport. In addition, communities still have to take up a number of challenges to facilitate the mobility of these people and offer them adequate services.

Reducing travel time in cities

Although in some cities, car use is tending to decrease or stabilize, it is still common to see traffic jams during rush hour. Moreover, even in Paris, where car travel has dropped considerably in recent years(Apur study between 2001 and 2018), travel times can be very long over a short distance.

This is one of the other challenges of urban mobility and new travel solutions. Faced with congested roads, and sometimes with a low frequency of public transport, soft mobility makes sense. Walking, scooters and bicycles can sometimes save a considerable amount of time on everyday journeys. However, they remain limited to micro-mobility and cannot always replace conventional motorized vehicles (thermal or electric) for longer distances.

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality

If we already know that thermal vehicles have a considerable impact on greenhouse gas emissions, a report from the European Environment Agency has just confirmed it. Transport is the main source of these emissions, with about 72% attributable to road transport, of which cars account for 60.6% of emissions. The concentration of cars in urban areas thus contributes to the deterioration of air quality. On a more global scale, it also contributes to global warming.

Modern urban mobility solutions must therefore address this issue. And they do: a muscle bike such as an electric bike does not produce any CO2 emissions during its use. However, one must be careful when talking about EDPM, since the manufacturing and the end of life of these devices have no impact on the environment. The environmental issue remains perfectly relevant, even with the development of this type of transport. It is up to the companies that manufacture them and the local authorities that offer them for self-service to innovate in order to offer an ever more sustainable version.

À quels enjeux répondent les nouvelles solutions de mobilité urbaine ?-2

Avoiding car dependency

Another problem in urban areas is the compulsory use of a car. In poorly served peripheral areas, or for people working outside the urban area, the car is sometimes the only possible mode of transport. This can be seen as a kind of inequality, as these city dwellers are forced to submit to all the costs that a motorized vehicle represents, exacerbated by the energy crisis and soaring fuel prices. At the same time, these residents are being pushed away from city centers, where Low Emission Zones are gradually forcing them to use ever cleaner vehicles.

In this case, the LDZs do not always represent an adequate solution, since the distances are sometimes too great to consider travelling by scooter or rollerblade, for example. Nevertheless, the deployment of carpooling, through financial incentives and the implementation of adequate infrastructures, can reduce travel costs. There is also the issue of transport on demand, which is not new, but which can always be used to compensate for a poorly deployed public transport network. Soft mobility can also have its place, in particular with the EV. Its autonomy and speed make it a suitable means of transport for travel within the urban area. This is provided that the public infrastructure, but also the services offered by companies, are up to the task (bicycle lanes, secure parking, recharging stations, etc.).

Contributing to public health

Urban mobility also has an impact on sedentary lifestyles and daily physical activity. For a short trip, walking instead of driving will allow for the recommended 30 minutes of daily activity. And this is a crucial issue for communities and populations, which are facing an increase in overweight and obesity. Active mobility alone will not be able to address this issue, but it can be part of a drive to combat sedentary lifestyles.

For example, cycling for daily commuting isbeneficial to individual and public health and can be encouraged. The same is true for walking, which can be encouraged by pedestrianizing certain urban areas, creating green spaces, putting up signs, widening sidewalks, etc.

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