Urban Mobility Guide
Urban life has been turned upside down by the recent crises that have affected France, but also many other countries, in the fields of health, the economy and geopolitics. Urban mobility in particular is undergoing major changes, as it has to respond to new economic, environmental and social challenges.
Urban travel is increasingly excluding the use of cars in favor of new, more sustainable and practical mobility solutions. These new modes of travel help to make the city a better place to live and work, improving the quality of life of city dwellers. They are also an excellent way to raise public awareness of sustainable mobility.
Find out everything you need to know about urban mobility: definitions, context, interests, challenges and different travel solutions.
What is the place of mobility in urban life?
What is the state of play for urban mobility? Before discussing the different urban mobility solutions, it is important to define this concept and to associate its stakes and advantages.
What is urban mobility?
Urban mobility refers to the movement of people within a city. This can be within the city center or between the suburbs, the suburbs and the city center, for commuting or for any other destination. Urban mobility is therefore focused on a limited urban perimeter and is to be distinguished from interurban mobility, which refers to travel from one city to another.
Urban mobility has undergone many changes, notably due to a growing interest in the environmental cause, but also to new work patterns and new modes of transport.
Urban mobility and sustainable mobility: what is the relationship?
Sustainable mobility refers to the set of tools and policies in favor of more environmentally friendly modes of travel for city dwellers. In fact, sustainable mobility is one of the drivers of sustainable development and its three pillars (economic, social, environmental).
It is closely linked to mobility in urban areas, since the proper development of mobility in cities guarantees a decrease in the use of personal vehicles and therefore an increase in the use of more ecological and responsible modes of transport. In this sense, sustainable urban mobility promotes both the health of city dwellers and the health of the planet.
How does the current context favor urban mobility?
Urban mobility is at the heart of current concerns related to the environmental cause, but also socio-economic.
Indeed, the cost of daily mobility by car keeps increasing year after year: the price of oil is rising, expenses related to car maintenance are ever more important, and parking spaces in cities are mostly paid. As a result, some households are vulnerable to the rising costs of daily car use: hence the importance for communities to prioritize the development of urban mobility.
In addition to this economic aspect linked to the rising price of energy such as oil, urban mobility is favored by the development of new technologies. These technologies are integrated into new modes of transport to make them particularly intelligent, efficient and safe.
These modes of transport have indeed developed strongly in recent years in large cities. The use of cars is gradually being replaced by shared mobility (car-sharing, car-pooling), soft mobility (walking, cycling, etc.), the use of electric vehicles (scooters, cars, bicycles, etc.) and public transport that is more accessible to all.
In any case, communities are now forced to rethink mobility in urban areas in an attempt to meet the three-dimensional challenges of sustainable development.
What are the benefits of urban mobility solutions?
The various urban mobility solutions make it easier for city dwellers to get around. Indeed, they are alternatives to cars and their drawbacks: traffic jams, loss of time on the road, parking constraints.
Reducing the use of cars in cities should also improve the quality of life of city dwellers by reducing pollution, noise and the stress of traffic jams on commutes.
Another advantage of urban mobility solutions other than the fuel-powered car is improved road safety, which is possible thanks to the improvement or creation of traffic lanes dedicated to these mobilities (bicycles, scooters, pedestrians, etc.). In addition, the new mobilities are increasingly valued by the authorities, with a legal framework that regulates the use of these mobilities and therefore protects all road users.
Finally, we must not forget the socio-economic benefits of developing mobility in urban areas. The accessibility of travel modes and the lower cost of public transport enable households to abandon their cars and thus reduce their daily fuel costs. Moreover, cities offering more developed mobility solutions are automatically more attractive for companies and workers.
What are the urban mobility solutions?
Inhabitants of metropolises or their suburbs have access to several urban mobility solutions for commuting to work or for any other destination (leisure, medical appointment, etc.). These solutions are ideal for all city dwellers looking for alternatives to the car or scooter.
The importance of multimodality in urban mobility
Even before reviewing the different mobility solutions, it is worth mentioning the importance of multimodality. This term refers to the presence of several different modes of transport between two locations. It is crucial in the travel of today's urban dwellers, since it is very rare to find trips involving only one mode of transport. Whatever the reasons for the complexity of the commute, it is important that city dwellers can use multiple modes of transportation to optimize their trips.
In choosing these mobility options, one must consider
- their cost and the budget of city dwellers
- their ecological impact
- their practicality for daily use;
- the user's profile (young people, seniors, athletes, etc.);
- the trip made (distance, type of road, etc.).
A shared mobility solution: carpooling and carsharing
Rather than completely abandoning cars, a first solution lies in shared mobility. City dwellers can save money on their trips or avoid buying a vehicle thanks to two concepts: carpooling and carsharing.
Carpooling refers to the sharing of one's own vehicle with other passengers to get to a destination while reducing costs. Car-sharing refers to the access to self-service vehicles for city dwellers with a specific subscription, allowing them to enjoy a car without having to buy one. While carpooling can be practical for both short and long distances, carsharing is more for short trips.
These two forms of shared mobility guarantee a reduction in the number of cars on the road in and outside built-up areas. This has several advantages: less traffic jams, less pollution (less greenhouse gases), fewer parking problems, more space on the road for other vehicles. Not to mention that the vehicles provided by car-sharing operators are generally less polluting and more economical. While carsharing may seem too costly for low-income households, it at least encourages them to use other, more sustainable means of transportation (walking, public transport, cycling).
Today, technologies and communication tools make shared mobility easier. Indeed, city dwellers can access websites and mobile applications for car-sharing and car-pooling, but also communicate easily with each other from their phones.
The choice of the electric car
Another solution for city dwellers who do not want to give up the use of a personal car is the purchase of an electric car (EV). There are several types of electric cars, all of which have an electric motor, but use it for all or part of the vehicle's propulsion.
We distinguish then :
- 100% electric cars, or BEVs (for "battery electric vehicle");
- conventional hybrid cars, or HEV (for "hybrid electric vehicle")
- Plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs (for "plug-in hybrid electric vehicle");
- Extended range electric vehicle (EREV).
The 100% electric cars run only on an electric motor, so their CO2 emissions are zero. The batteries of these vehicles have a large capacity, but must be recharged at a fixed terminal for several hours. They are to be preferred for trips in the city or for short trips in the suburbs, because of the limited range.
Classic hybrid cars use a combustion engine and an electric motor depending on the propulsion needs. The electric motor is often used for starting and for low speeds, thus in the city, while the combustion engine is used for high speeds, especially on freeways. There are micro-hybrids, mild hybrids and full hybrids, all of which impact oncarbon emission savings.
Plug-in hybrids work like conventional hybrids, except that they can be recharged directly and quickly from an electrical outlet. Conventional hybrids are recharged only while in use, by recovering energy dissipated during braking.
Finally, EVs with range extenders are vehicles that use only their electric motor for propulsion, but have an internal combustion engine that is used to recharge the battery that provides the energy.
City dwellers can choose between these different types of EVs, depending on the desired range, their budget and their sensitivity to the environmental cause by limiting the vehicle's CO2 emissions.
The emergence of MPTs (motorized personal transport devices)
MPTs represent a new category of vehicles recognized by the Highway Code since the end of 2019. These are vehicles:
- without a seating position;
- using a non-thermal engine;
- without a predefined number of wheels;
- whose design speed is greater than 6 km/h and limited to 25 km/h;
- governed by traffic and parking regulations.
This category of vehicles includes electric scooters, electric bikes and smart bikes (connected electric bikes), gyropods and hoverboards. These are fast, fun and intuitive devices with minimal and functional design, as well as safe to drive and secure against theft.
Electric scooters are very popular with city dwellers of all backgrounds. It is easy to handle both in terms of driving and transportation. The many models available allow you to choose the scooter that combines power and autonomy according to the user's needs. Moreover, many cities offer a self-service electric scooter service.
Electric bikes meet the same need as electric scooters: to get around more easily and quickly, in a more responsible and environmentally friendly way. However, an electric bike can offer better autonomy and comfort, although it is more cumbersome than a scooter (unless it is foldable).
Gyropods and hoverboards are devices that look similar to a skateboard. They work with a gyroscopic balancing system: they move forward when the user leans forward and stop when the user stands upright. The gyropod, which has handlebars, is more expensive and bulky than the hoverboard.
More traditional solutions: walking, biking, skating, rollerblading
Walking, skateboarding, biking and rollerblading are still popular, if not increasingly so. These soft mobilities are the most affordable for city dwellers and are particularly practical for short trips in town. As far as bicycles are concerned, they can be personal bicycles or self-service bicycles, the famous Velib.
In addition to their durability, these soft mobility solutions are an excellent way to maintain daily physical activity.
Choosing public transportation
Public transportation is a highly preferred mobility solution for city dwellers for their commute to work. Buses, subways, tramways: these means of transportation are available in exchange for a ticket or pass. However, some French cities offer free or partial access to their public transportation services.
While some city dwellers are perfectly happy with this type of transportation, others prefer to use vehicles such as scooters or personal electric bikes for faster and more pleasant trips. The covid-19 health crisis has reinforced this trend in major cities in France, but also on a European and global scale.
In any case, to choose a sustainable urban mobility solution adapted to one's needs and desires, it is possible to call upon an expert in the field.