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While the bicycle benefits from powerful assets – inexpensive, ecological, beneficial to health, silent – it is still struggling to establish itself in France as a true mode of transport in its own right. The often blamed lack of “cycling culture”, however, does not seem as culpable as the discontinuities of cycle lanes and the lack of secure parking. If the growth of cycling depends on the multitude of players in the “cycling system”, political boldness and the associated public investments are decisive.

THE RETURN OF THE BIKE: IS THE BIG LOOP CLOSED?

After the Second World War, the practice of cycling fell massively in all European countries. The Netherlands, often cited as an example, is no exception: from 1950 to 1978, cycling was divided by 2.7 . This fall is concomitant with the rise of the automobile which is perceived as a formidable tool of freedom, emancipating the Man from physical fatigue. Cities are transforming to make way for the automobile. The bicycle is disappearing from our towns and villages, relegated to a leisure or even to an obsolete, vulgar mode of transport reserved for “the poor”.

While in the countries of northern Europe, the situation will gradually change from the 1970s, helped by the energy crisis and under the influence of civil protest movements, in France, the “all automobile” n is only weakly questioned. Apart from a few remarkable one-off initiatives – for example, the establishment of 250 self-service bicycles in La Rochelle in 1976 – investments in favor of bicycles and policies to moderate automobile traffic were quickly abandoned. In France, the use of the bicycle logically continues to decline.

At the turn of the millennium, and while in Northern Europe, the practice of cycling has consolidated, it is finally experiencing a revival in the country of the Tour de France. The declining trend is reversed, driven by proactive policies and in particular the emergence of self-service bicycles. Cycling trips thus increased by 21% between 2000 and 2010 in all major French agglomerations [2]. For example, in Lyon where the modal share of cycling increased again in 2016 by 26% to such an extent that on certain axes of the city center, bicycle traffic represents up to a third of total vehicle traffic [3].

Despite this  recovery , only 500,000 active French commute to work on a daily basis, ie 2% of home-work trips [4]. Even over the distances most suited to cycling, it struggles to win. Over distances of less than 3 km, less than 5% of journeys are made by bicycle [5]. In comparison, the modal share of cycling in Copenhagen is 31% and even 55% in the city center [6].

While it is on the rise, cycling is still struggling to establish itself as a real mode of transport. The French are still reluctant to (re) get in the saddle and the arguments cited against cycling are overwhelming: weather constraints, fear of traffic, sweating, physical fatigue, pollution, lack of parking, theft, breakage… Choosing the bike as a mode of travel therefore greatly depends on improving the entire experience as a cyclist in the face of the apparently more comfortable experience of motorists or public transport users. It is clear that this cycling experience has improved significantly in recent years and that mentalities have changed.

THE TECHNICAL ADVANCES OF THE LAST YEARS HAVE ALLOWED THE EMERGING OF BIKES OFFERING GREATER COMFORT AND BECOMING AN INCREASINGLY CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE TO THE PRIVATE CAR

The electrically assisted bicycle (VAE) could meet the need for mobility of half of French people who work less than 8 km from their home [7]. VAEs make it possible to increase the speed of movement (19 km/h, that is to say more than the average of a motorized vehicle in town which is 18 km/h [8]) and to reduce the physical effort. Similar to mopeds, the s-pedelec can go up to 45 km/h. 

The folding bike makes it easy to use public transport to continue your journey.

The cargo bike can transport up to 80 kg and therefore covers most of the daily journeys: transporting children, local purchases or in supermarkets [9] .

These innovations are complemented by those of start-ups such as Wink, which has developed a connected handlebar to make cycling safer by integrating a GPS, automatic headlights or even turn signals.

TWELVE TIMES EMITTERS LESS CARBON THAN THE CAR, THE BIKE IS ALSO A RELEVANT TOOL IN ACHIEVING OUR GOALS OF REDUCING GLOBAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

The leading emitting sector in France, transport accounts for 36% of global greenhouse gas emissions [10]. France is committed to reducing the sector’s emissions by 20% by 2020 to bring them back to 1990 levels (Grenelle 1). However, no public transport or individual vehicle is as “clean” as the bicycle.

Taking into account a lifespan of 8 years and 2,400 km traveled per year, the carbon footprint of a mechanical bicycle would be 5g CO2e / km, that of an eBike therefore also integrating the impact of lithium batteries, 16 g CO2e / km.

To deal with detractors of cycling, the European Cyclists’ Federation has gone so far as to adopt a rigorous method including the carbon footprint of the calories consumed by a cyclist compared to those of an adult at rest. The results remain largely favorable to cycling with 21 g CO2e/km for a mechanical bicycle and 22 g CO2e / km for an eBike [11], values ​​12 times lower than that of the car (271g CO2/passenger/km) and 5 times lower than that of the bus (101g CO2e/passenger/km).

AGAINST THE FREQUENTLY SPREADED OPINION, CYCLISTS ARE ALSO LESS EXPOSED TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF POLLUTION

A physical activity that can be easily integrated into everyday life by everyone, cycling is also acclaimed for its virtues in terms of public health. Contrary to the impression that cyclists can sometimes have, they are less exposed to pollution than motorists or metro users. The study conducted by Atmo Midi-Pyrénées ORAMIP and relayed by Le Monde [12] has thus shown that the absence of a confined environment makes it possible to drastically reduce exposure, in particular to carbon monoxide.

Cycling, as a physical activity, also reduces the risk of respiratory disease or obesity and has beneficial effects on mental health [13].

Faced with these benefits, the risk of an accident, often cited as one of the brakes on cycling, is quite low with an accident per million kilometers [14] . 

Cycling therefore represents a major economic stake for social security. According to the WHO, an increase in the number of annual kilometers traveled by bicycle per inhabitant from 80km currently to 250-300km (level of Germany, Switzerland or Belgium) would save €15 billion per year in health expenses, lost working days and valuation of additional years of life [15]. 

BENEFICIAL FOR PUBLIC FINANCES, THE BIKE IS ALSO FOR THE FRENCH WALLET

To the potential gain for social security, we must add the gains for the taxpayer. The cost of a linear meter of cycle road is around €60 to €700. The investment cost of a tramway project (infrastructure and rolling stock) is between 16,000 and 25,000 per meter. This same cost for a high-level service bus (BRT) project is €1,000 to €4,000 per meter for a BRT with 30 to 50% of its own site and €4,000 to 7,000 per meter for a BRT with 50 to 100% clean site [16].

In addition, several inexpensive measures (up to 20 times less than for a cycle path) can be implemented to improve the safety of cyclists:

  • Reduction of traffic speed so that different types of vehicles can coexist
  • Improvement of the road system (speed bumps and speed bumps, narrowing of the road width, etc.)
  • Establishment of 30 zones or meeting zones (20 km/h)
  • Generalization of two-way cycling in 30 km / h zones

Finally from an economic point of view, the bicycle is also much less expensive for the user. The costs related to the acquisition and maintenance of a bicycle would be around 0.15 per km against 0.21 for the car. A gap will widen shortly with the decriminalization of parking (in Paris, fines will triple from 1st  January 2018). Urban public transport is more attractive to the user (€ 0.10 per km) but the community bears a significant share of the total cost of travel in the form of operating subsidies, bringing their total cost to 0,45 per km [17].

While the development of public transport infrastructure alone cannot be sufficient to create a viable alternative to self-driving everywhere in the country, cycling therefore offers an economically credible solution, especially in sparsely populated and rural areas where 40% live. the French.

FACE  TOTHE EXTENT OF THESE BENEFITS BUT ALSO THANKS TO JCDECAUX’S INNOVATIVE SERVICE OFFERS FOLLOWED BY ITS COMPETITORS, CITIES HAVE BEEN EASILY TO IMPLEMENT A FULLY INTEGRATED “BIKE SOLUTION”, THE VEHICLE.SELF-SERVICE LO

It was believed for a long time that the arrival of the self-service bicycle (VLS) would change everything. In some respects, the bet is successful. In Lyon, 95% of Vélo’v users were not cyclists before the system was put into service [18].

However, the VLS was also disappointed in particular because of the insufficient network of the territory and the prohibitive cost for less dense municipalities. Depending on the characteristics of the service and the mode of management, the price range observed (investment and operation) thus varies from € 1,100 excluding tax to € 3,200 excluding tax per bike and per year. The observed average is around € 2,400 excluding tax per bike and per year [19].

The low usage of the service and the low penetration rates observed have led some cities to backtrack. This is particularly the case in Aix-en-Provence (2011), Chalon-sur-Saône (2015), Caen (2017) or Perpignan (2017). ADEME in its evaluation study on bicycle services carried out in September 2016 [20] thus drew the areas of relevance of VLS (see graph below) and demonstrated that VLS was not the ideal solution for everyone. territories, and even less in peri-urban and rural areas. 

Faced with this observation, to change the mobility habits of the French, we must think about the less expensive development of a user experience which tends to be as qualitative as that of the VLS (ease of parking, reduction of maintenance hassles, flexibility of course…). It is therefore the entire chain of uses of the cyclist illustrated below that must be considered.

In order to improve this experience, many players in the “bicycle system” must collaborate and invest: State, local authorities (bicycle-friendly infrastructures), companies and administrations (PDE, PDA), transporters, associations (provision of fleets) developers (information applications), start-ups (for example for maintenance like Cyclofix)…

AMONG THESE ACTORS, LOCAL AUTHORITIES HAVE A DETERMINING ROLE IN THE PLANNING OF THE TERRITORY IN ORDER TO MAKE THE USE OF BICYCLES SAFE

In this area, France is still lagging far behind its European neighbors.

Originally designed to free the streets of unruly cyclists, cycle facilities quickly proved to be a determining factor in cycling, thanks to the heightened sense of security they engender. 80% of the most serious bicycle accidents result from a collision with a motor vehicle which could therefore be avoided by segmenting the circulation space [21].

In France, in towns and cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, 19% of the road network includes such facilities (track, strip, zone 30, etc.) with strong disparities between the towns: 49% in Strasbourg, Rennes or Metz versus 17% in Caen [22].

The map below of cycling facilities in Europe produced by Géovelo speaks for itself.

Cycle paths

On the subject of parking, today the number of spaces in France would be only 35,000. ADEME estimates that 200,000 the number of bicycle spaces should be deployed near stations and 80,000 in urban areas for develop intermodality [23].

FACED WITH THIS FACT, ONLY A STRONG POLITICAL WILL WILL BE ABLE TO GENERATE THE CONDITIONS FOR A TRUE PRO-BIKE TRANSITION

In France, however, the budgets devoted to cycling remain very limited since they represent 5.6 /inhabitant/year, ie ten times less than the operating subsidies for provincial urban public transport [24]. In a constrained budgetary context due to the reduction in State grants, the investment of communities is more uncertain than ever.

 

More generally, in France, the subject of cycle development still seems as sensitive and the effervescence of citizens is often counterbalanced by the reluctance of elected officials when it is not the reverse…

However, cities and villages of diehards still resist “all-auto” and allow us to qualify our findings. Let us hail here and in an arbitrary way the Grenoble “bicycle motorway” equipped with pumps and clear signage, the long-term rental of VAE in the urban community of Arras or the city of Pont Sainte-Maxence (12,000 inhabitants), awarded guidon d’or 2016 by the FUB for its numerous cycling facilities and for its support for the repair workshop.

Marine Trillat

[Sources]

Cover photo from the blog www.ibikestrasbourg.com

Illustrations by Sempé

[1] Frédérique Héran, The return of the bicycle. A history of urban travel in Europe, from 1817 to 2050, 2014

[2]  CGDD – Evaluation of the development policy for the use of bicycles for daily transport – May 2016

[3]  Mobilitcités – Lyon: increase in bicycle traffic by 26% in 2016 – April 21, 2017

[4]  DGCIS – Study on the cycle rental market: what opportunities for manufacturers? –June 2014

[5]  Xerfi – the bicycle market – May 2017

[6]  How Copenhagen became the European cycling capital – May 9, 2014

[7]  Dads 2004

[8]  Interconnection is no longer guaranteed – 8 things to know before buying an electric bike – March 12, 2015

[9]  The Shift Project – Decarbonizing mobility in medium density areas – 2017

[10]  ekodev – Mobility barometer 2016

[11] http://www.avem.fr/actualite-est-ce-que-le-vae-est-polluant-5861.html

[12]  Le Monde – Auto, metro, bicycle: where do we breathe the least polluted air? – March 13, 2014

[13]  Traveling 20 km per week, reduces the risk of early mortality per year by 10% which corresponds to 2.3 deaths avoided for 10 million km traveled by bicycle

[14]  CGDD – Evaluation of the development policy for the use of bicycles for daily transport – May 2016

[15]  Study cited in Le retour de la bicyclette by Frédéric Héran

[16]  GART – Intermodality practices Cycling – public transport – 2014

[17]  CGDD – Evaluation of the development policy for the use of bicycles for daily transport – May 2016

[18]  Gazette des communes – Self-service bicycles: inventory and outlook – September 2013

[19]  CEREMA – Contractualization of self-service bicycles in France – Inventory 2005-2013

[20]  ADEME, Evaluation study on bicycle services – September 2016

[21]  Mobilette, Special city bike – October 2, 2017

[22]  CGDD – Evaluation of the development policy for the use of bicycles for daily transport – May 2016

[23]  ADEME – infographic by bicycle services – 2016

[24]  GART – Intermodality practices Cycling – public transport – 2014

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