Infotech TRIBUNE. Removing urban space for cars could lead to higher pollution

TRIBUNE. Removing urban space for cars could lead to higher pollution

For many large French cities and metropolises, pedestrianization is the spearhead of the last municipal elections. A real boon for improving the well-being of all, but which very often turns into a new battle front. Countless green initiatives are emerging all over France, such as the experimentation of car-free zones or the elimination of a large number of parking spaces for cars and motorcycles. This reconquest of urban space by pedestrians outlines the new contours of our cities. But is pedestrianization the only key to a sustainable city?

A year after this election, the new majorities hastily follow suit, to the chagrin of motorists. From Paris to Lyon, via Bordeaux or even Toulouse, municipal initiatives such as experimentation zones favoring pedestrians, cycle paths or other electric two-wheelers have multiplied with the sole aim of “Break bitumen” as the mayor of Bordeaux has so well announced publicly. Even during his last weeks, the deputy for Transport of the city of Paris reaffirmed its policy of (non) parking. In Paris alone, 70,000 seats [en surface] will disappear by 2026 – that’s half.

Paris will remove half of surface parking spaces

This no-parking policy is counterproductive for residents of the inner suburbs and outer suburbs who have no other choice but to travel by car in Paris. We should not create more “Discrimination” between the “Commuters” and the “Parisians”. Examples among many others, which should pave the way towards “The cities of tomorrow” and which illustrate the difficulties that motorists will have to face in the near future. Wanting at all costs to blacklist cars, this “Plant conquest” may well end in defeat.

Little-known treasures

This decade is marked by the climate and energy emergency. And the 5,000 amendments to the “climate and resilience” bill tabled by the deputies prove it. We must act diligently to propose and implement solutions to preserve our planet, as well as our health. When we know that in France, one in 1,000 deaths is attributable to poor air quality, we cannot remain steadfast in our habits. This observation does not spare any of our large cities.

Each year, the level of fine particles in the air found in most large cities exceeds the threshold of the recommendations of the World Health Organization. These same fine particles that we would like to see disappear by drastically removing parking spaces, whilein fine 30% of traffic jams are caused by the search for this commodity which has become far too rare in our big cities. By wanting to oppose modes of transport, we forget the essence of the projects. Cities must work for real urban and sustainable mobility and not create a smokescreen by hunting down motorists.

Thibaut Chary, co-founder and CEO of Yespark, and Robin Reda, LR deputy for Essonne.

This ecological constraint is a real opportunity for our future, to rethink the development of cities while responding to new energy, climate and societal challenges. The city of tomorrow will have fewer and fewer cars, and it will be so much more enjoyable for everyone. But this will only be possible if we think about the infrastructures that make it possible to solve the problems of motorist uses. Today, cars are definitely driven out, with no alternatives and at the risk of saturating our roads even more, creating more traffic jams. This reduction in urban space for cars and parking lots could have the opposite effect and lead to a significant increase in pollution. The elimination of parking spaces would only be illusory without alternatives for orphan cars. We can rethink our cities by involving all our citizens in this project.

What urban mobility in 2049?

And yet, little-known treasures are hidden in the basements of our cities. Tens of thousands of parking spaces are forgotten in parking lots. And 26% of them belong to social landlords who may well have the key to reducing traffic jams, pollution and noise in their hands. In a context where cities have found themselves on the front line to support residents in the face of Covid-19, the issue of saving money is indeed present to avoid an impact on taxation. By relying on social landlords, improving the well-being, health and life of all city dwellers can be done without the need to invest heavily in infrastructure. The use of these little-known treasures turns out to be the only pragmatic solution without exploding the finances of our cities.

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