Rennes and Strasbourg, good students, the disaster in Marseille … What are the “walkable” cities?

THE’bicycle kilometer allowance, the
national fund of 350 million euros over seven years, acted in 2018, to speed up the development of cycle paths, coronapistes and the bicycle boost …

In this concern to decarbonize our journeys – both to fight against climate change and to improve the air quality of urban areas – France has especially put the package, in recent years, on the bicycle. To the point of making people jealous on the side of pedestrians, the other great active mobility which also combines benefits for the environment and health?

“Nothing justifies that we talk so little about walking”

TO “Place for pedestrians”, a collective of three associations that promotes walking, we warn from the outset that we are absolutely not against cycling. On the contrary. Simply, “nothing justifies that we talk so little about walking and the means to promote it”, insists Anne Faure, president of
Rue de l’Avenir.

So this Tuesday, the collective takes the lead by publishing the first barometer of “walkable cities”. It is the result of an online survey, carried out from December 7 to March 15 in partnership with Ademe, during which the French were invited to assess the walkability of their municipality. A total of 68,510 questionnaires were completed *, which made it possible to assess 200 cities. Those for which more than 40 completed questionnaires were collected. An unpublished document? “Until then, we were sorely lacking in information on the needs and wishes of pedestrians”, we believe within the group where we were inspired, for this study, by
cycle city barometers what is already doing
Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB).

Walking, far ahead of the bike?

All the same, French mobility surveys that the Ministry of Ecological Transition is carrying out have already highlighted the importance of walking in our daily journeys. Of the 181 million made each day by the French (on average three per day), the car remains the most used mode of transport, with a modal share of 62.8% (out of 100 trips, 62.8% are made in car). But just after comes walking, which accounts for 23.7% of our daily trips. “A share that has increased by 1.5 points since 2008,” recalls Frédéric Brouet, administrator at the
French hiking federation, also in the collective. For its part, the modal share of cycling is 2.7% and remained stable between 2008 and 2019.

“This first barometer of walkable towns confirms our idea that walking counts for a good number of French people,” continues Anne Faure. They are still more than 68,000 to have taken the time to answer forty questions, we were far from expecting as many. Among them, 62% say they practice walking every day and 54% use it as their main mode of travel (work, running, administrative procedures, etc.). “

“Rather favorable” in Strasbourg and Rennes… “Very unfavorable” in Marseille

They do it more with pleasure, since 59% of respondents find that walking in their town is pleasant. But the margins for progress remain significant. By giving marks from 1 to 6 each time, the respondents were invited to express themselves on the ease or not of getting around on foot in their municipality, their feeling of safety, the comfort of walking, the importance given to travel. pedestrian by their municipality … “Place aux pedestrians” obtained overall scores out of 20 for each of the 200 municipalities, to then classify them into eight categories. From G for “very unfavorable” to A + for “excellent”.

The average score is 9.2 / 20, which corresponds to the letter D (“moderately favorable”). Cities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants are the ones doing the best, with an average score of 10 which allows them to switch to C (“rather favorable”). On the other hand, things are going bad for cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants, for which the feelings of walkers are generally “rather unfavorable” (category E). In detail, Strasbourg and Rennes, classified in C, still pull the average up. Marseille, a rare city classified in G, as “very unfavorable”, with a score below 5.2 / 20, does the opposite. “The poorly classified are often those cities which, for years, favored the car. So much so that they do not offer – or at least not yet – an ecosystem conducive to walking, ”summarizes Anne Faure.

Wider, well-maintained and secure pedestrian paths

Beyond this list, this barometer highlights the main improvements expected by pedestrians. “Starting with that of having wider, well-maintained and secure pedestrian paths, priority number 1 whatever the size of the town”, indicates Frédéric Brouet. This is the basis for “Place aux pedestrians”, and it does not always go without saying. Even less and less? “In the detailed responses of respondents, many express their concern about the encroachment of the place of pedestrians on the sidewalk,” notes the administrator of FFRandonnée. This is particularly the case with the rise of new modes of mobility – scooters in the lead –, “But it is also when cities hastily set up cycle lanes on sidewalks, authorize the extension of terraces…”, continues Frédéric Brouet. No wonder then that the second priority expressed is to “reserve the use of sidewalks for pedestrians”.

Among the other expected improvements, Anne Faure points out the often expressed wish to “constitute a complete network of pedestrian paths in the city”, “when too often, the municipalities have put the package on their city center and abandoned the rest”. Otherwise, the respondents are 28% to ask for more parking tickets on pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, and 27% to want to moderate more the speed of motorized vehicles in places frequented by pedestrians. As for the incentives to walk, “the over 65s are asking for urban amenities such as toilets, benches, fountains, notes Anne Faure. While those under 35 place more emphasis on the need to vegetate urban space and improve the environment. “

Serve as a working document for further analyzes

“Place aux pedestrians” does not elude the limits of this first barometer. “It relied on voluntary respondents, who necessarily have a subjective opinion on the walkability of cities and who do not constitute a representative sample of the French”, explain Frédéric Brouet and Anne Faure. Only 4% of respondents were under 25, for example. Nevertheless, this study, which “Place aux pedestrians” wants to reproduce every two years from now on, can be a tool in the hands of elected officials to develop more in-depth analyzes and develop walking in the daily life of the French, wants to believe the collective . And why not start on September 17th? In the middle of the mobility week, “Place aux pedestrians” is organizing the first national conference of walking in the city.

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