Facilitating travel through urban mobility

First, we will recall what urban mobility is and what it defines in order to understand its framework and limits. Then we will see how to think about urban mobility and how it can facilitate travel according to the different modes of transport in use or in development.

We shall see that thinking about and anticipating urban mobility not only helps to facilitate travel, but also contributes to a whole range of other no less important issues (urban planning, personal services, public safety, environmental protection policies, etc.).

La mobilité urbaine pour faciliter les déplacements-1

Better understanding of urban mobility

Urban mobility cannot be reduced to issues of road traffic density during rush hour in large cities (Paris, Lyon, Nantes, etc.). It is a much broader and richerconcept in terms of

  • the nature of trips (personal, professional, leisure, etc.) ;
  • diversity of users (residents, tourists, day or night workers, etc.)
  • vehicles considered (private car, public transport vehicles);
  • personal motorized travel devices (electric scooters) or electric bikes (connected or not, etc.);
  • travel infrastructure (roads, railroads, bike paths, moderate speed zones or shared-user zones, etc.).

To summarize, urban mobility is therefore a global vision project that is intended to be comprehensive on the scale of a population in a given geographic area. Its objective is to determine the best organizational compromise between all the publics and the modes of transport used.

In France, since January 1ᵉʳ, 2021, there is the mobility plan(PDM), which guides the actors of the territories through regular reflections on the state of play of mobilities and their problems as well as possible new answers.

The challenges of urban mobility

There is a need to consider all the challenges of urban mobility and its optimization through actions carried out on a city scale, for example

  • increasing the safety of users and of existing transport ;
  • improving the fluidity and linearization of travel flows on a given time scale (day, week);
  • promoting public transport services (for cities that have them) or soft mobility (cycling, pedestrian travel, etc.);
  • Addressing environmental issues through sustainable and environmentally responsible transportation infrastructure;
  • etc.

Urban mobility management requires the establishment of focus groups on the actions to be taken to meet all of these (sometimes conflicting) objectives. For example, the quality of transport within a city must be measured by the quality of infrastructure, punctuality and frequency, the commercial speed ratio of public transport vehicles, the accessibility of soft mobility infrastructure, the safety of users, etc.

La mobilité urbaine pour faciliter les déplacements-2

Urban mobility facilitates travel

One of the major roles of urban mobility is to facilitate travel for the users of the areas concerned (e.g. cities). Let us take the example of a large city in France that has had to deal with its own development going back to the 1980s. The city of Nantes embodies a dynamic urban mobility policy that is constantly adapting to the new travel requirements of its growing population.

Some key figures :

  • the city of Nantes had 240,000 inhabitants in 1982, and today there are more than 665,000 inhabitants in Nantes Métropole (absorption of the surrounding towns by urban expansion);
  • inauguration of the tramway in 1985 in a climate of mistrust by the political opposition, which had to face up to the success of the project (more than 40,000 daily passengers at the beginning, then 320,000 daily passengers in 2020);
  • creation of nearly 700 km of bicycle paths divided into "main", "structural" and "secondary" routes;
  • a fleet of 550 "bus" type vehicles serves all 48 regular routes;
  • In 1985, there were 24 million private vehicles on the road in France, compared to 45 million in 2022, i.e. an increase of almost 100%.

In view of these figures, we can extrapolate certain data.

  1. If the population of Nantes Métropole (about 10,000 more inhabitants each year) had kept the car as the only mode of travel, the roads would have had to be multiplied by 3 in 40 years (physically impossible). While "traffic jams" already existed in the 1980s and parking areas were reduced and then moved out of the way.
  2. There was a lot of political reluctance against the creation of tramway lines, which have nevertheless allowed Nantes Agglomeration and Metropolis to achieve its current dynamism.
  3. Bicycles are increasingly used as a means of transport thanks to their accessibility (connected bicycles, bicycle rental centres, secure infrastructures, etc.).
  4. The circulation of goods flows also increases with the demographic growth of a city and this requires transport vehicles.
  5. And so on.

We can therefore see the importance of the urban mobility plan for travel. Policies related to land use planning and the well-being of its inhabitants must absolutely revolve around a reflection that can be broken down into three key stages.

  1. An inventory of the current situation is necessary to gain a good understanding of the realities of existing travel (density of the active population travelling during working hours, travel between the city center and suburban areas, consideration of tourist travel or travel for consumption in local shops, etc.).
  2. The avenues for improvement must be discussed on the basis of experts or competent study firms that will enrich the proposed solutions with useful feedback. Simulations must be carried out to judge the effectiveness of the selected scenarios.
  3. The construction phases of the necessary infrastructures (or their transformation) are often heavy and impact travel by increasing its constraints for a certain period of time. This must be anticipated and temporary solutions must be integrated.

Once travel has been facilitated through the urban mobility study, it is always recommended that post-development studies be carried out to measure the impact of the decisions made. This allows to validate the relevance of the choices made and thus to better direct future decisions, because let us remember that urban mobility is reinvented every day according to the needs and habits of the users and the related constraints.

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