Can we do without the car?

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of the car,” journalist Andrea Coccia aptly wrote in a recent pamphlet, Towards the car. Fifty years of policy in favor of the car has left a deep mark on France. This has a price: a car costs on average between 400 and 600 euros per month for a French person*. This includes the purchase, the insurance, the petrol, the inevitable repairs… The amount has since necessarily increased with the increase in fuel prices.

The car also pollutes and emits 16% of greenhouse gas emissions in France. Sometimes it heats the country even more literally: the burning of a van is the cause of the fire in the Dune of Pilat (Gironde) this summer, transporting 7,000 hectares.

But let’s be honest, unless you live in a big city, it’s still very difficult to do without the car. “Because it takes a lot of time to develop a territory, notes Tom Dubois, from the think tank Forum vies mobiles. Two centuries ago we traveled 4 kilometers a day on average. It’s 60 today.” But it is not impossible to give it up while waiting for cleaner cars. Here are a few things to think about.

* Cabinet Adetec in 2018, Automobile Club in 2019.

I live in the big city

YES The city dweller is spoiled with choices to do without the car: buses, metros, trams, trains, bicycles, cars or scooters for self-sharing, increasingly developed bicycle networks… “Provided that public transport is not congested and uncomfortable”, warns Marie Chéron , mobility specialist in the transport and environmental network. It is otherwise hard to resist the car. “It’s a second home, a bubble of calm”, declares Judicaël Potonnec, project manager of the Hauts-de-France Ecomobility Resource Center (CREM).

A few cities in particular have pioneered car avoidance. “Let’s cite Strasbourg, which developed both cycling and public transport, Nantes and its precursor tram in the 1980s, Grenoble…” says Laura Foglia, head of mobility at the Shift Project think tank.

Walking is also an alternative that is often forgotten in the city, yet excellent for your health. Young people in particular rarely walked as little as they do today. They have lost 25% of their cardiovascular capacity in forty years, according to the French Cardiology Federation. But it’s not just a matter of laziness. It is also the fault of the public authorities, who have developed many areas without pavements. “We have to make the areas pedestrian, secure them, make them comfortable spaces, for example by shading them”, emphasizes Marie Chéron.

I live in the suburbs or in a medium-sized city

IS IT POSSIBLE Public transport is available in most suburbs of large cities and medium-sized cities in France, often at increasingly affordable prices. In the urban area of ​​Clermont-Ferrand, for example, public transport has been free on weekends since 4 December. It is still necessary that all interconnections are well thought out. Judicaël Potonnec, from the Ecomobility Resource Center in Hauts-de-France, sets up the Pévèle-Carembault (North) intercommunity as an example. It has set up a small bus that takes into account the timetables for the regional train between Lille and Valenciennes. If the train is late, the bus adjusts itself so passengers don’t miss their connection. Reliability is the key to getting people to ditch their cars.

The bicycle also has its card to play. “30% of the French practice all their activities less than 9 km from their home”, states Tom Dubois from the research institute Mobile Lives Forum. However, every trip of 9 km or less can be completed in less than thirty minutes on an electric bicycle. Can be played if the weather is favorable. Yann Tremeac, Ademe transport expert, also believes in it: “It’s good for your health, it’s not reserved for athletes as too many people think, it allows you to easily carry ten kilos of bags.”

30% of the French do all their activities less than 9 km from their home

Tom Dubois from the research institute Mobile Lives Forum

For Judicaël Potonnec, the brake is primarily psychological. “That’s why our association organizes courses to get back in the saddle, with advice on choosing a bike, reminders of the traffic law, on the right way to position yourself on the road. You have to dare to take your place on the road. road. The cyclist has as much right to it as the motorist. Those who keep too close to the right run more risks.”

I live in the countryside

ALMOST It is still very difficult to do without an individual car in the countryside. In particular, the train is not sufficiently developed there. But there are loopholes. “They should not be neglected, since 20% of the household budget in rural areas is allocated to transport, supports Yann Tremeac, transport expert from Ademe. It is 5% more than for households in the region. Parisian. It is a real territorial divide .”

To go to work, carpooling is a proven solution. There is no shortage of applications: Blablacar, Mobicoop, Klaxit, Karos, La roue verte, Rezo Pouce… This last initiative also takes the form, in several regions, of physical stopping points where people who want to carpool can place themselves. Drivers who join the network pick them up. “Sometimes it requires, sometimes not, analyzes Judicaël Potonnec. It requires, when there is a lot of information work, local animation with times of meeting, such as the community of communes of the Plateau Picard, in the Oise.” For him, the biggest obstacle to carpooling to work is the return time. Few people end their day at a fixed time. “Communities need to think about emergency solutions, such as special taxis,” said the specialist.

Another excellent alternative to the car is still… telecommuting. “In France, a third of the French practiced remote work during their imprisonment”, recalls Tom Dubois. A third of the French do not have a compelling need to go to the office every day for their work.

I have a big family

ALMOST In the newspaper western france, Natacha, a former driver from Avignon by habit and “out of laziness”, told in February 2021 how she started cycling when she met her boyfriend. And how she even left to give birth… on a cargo bike, driven by her mate! This anecdote shows that it is sometimes possible to adopt behavior that previously seemed unthinkable. The recent success of the cargo bike, electrically assisted or not, has shown that it is not impossible to have children and move them around in other ways than by car.
Yes, but how do you get rid of the car after shopping when the shopping basket is full? Here, too, it is necessary to question its consumption practices. Is it really necessary to carry heavy packs of water on every run? 48% of the French drink bottled water every day. However, this water is no better for your health than tap water – which is highly controlled – because it contains more microplastics. Bottled water is also much more expensive: 40 cents per liter according to UFC-Que Choisir, compared to 0.3 cents per liter for tap water.

For transporting shopping, the cargo bike works very well. It is of course still necessary for the local communities to build cycle paths separate from the roads and ensure cycle parking. Finally, there is the option of having your purchases delivered if this service is available.

I live in a remote village

VERY DIFFICULT It is almost impossible to do without a car in the most isolated places. But there are solutions to get rid of the second vehicle that many households have. It eases the wallet for families, while also providing the security that comes with owning a car, “for example, to transport your sick child to the emergency room in the middle of the night,” agrees Marie Chéron.
In addition to cycling, carpooling or long-distance driving, there are shared cars. This has been in development for ten years. Experiments are carried out in Montpellier, Reims, Metz, Strasbourg, but also in rural areas, such as in the Grandes Causses park, in Occitanie, Luitré-Dompierre, in Brittany, Bar-le-Duc, in Lorraine, thanks in particular to the Citiz cooperative network. More unusual: Renault lent eleven Zoé electric cars to the 25 inhabitants of an isolated village, Appy (Ariège), to promote its car-sharing service. However, it did not go everywhere. Ardenne Métropole and its 58 municipalities, for example, gave up experience in February due to lack of registrants.
In March last year, the Mobile Lives Forum quantified in a study the costs of establishing a complete and reliable transport system that would make it possible to do without the car: one billion euros per department. “It shows that it is expensive, but feasible”, assures Tom Dubois, from Forum. Even in the countryside.

I am elderly or disabled

VERY DIFFICULT Get alternatives to the car for people with reduced mobility. Especially when using a customized vehicle. On the other hand, shared cars are a solution for healthy elderly people. “Because they are often retired, they rarely need to drive at a fixed time during rush hour, to go to work or pick up children from school. They can therefore more easily find shared cars”, explains Marie Chéron. There are also solidarity initiatives. Hauts-de-France has thus launched a “Rezo senior thumb”. Voluntary carpoolers pick up elderly people from their homes for medical appointments, shopping, etc. Many cities also offer tours on demand, which are very useful for people with reduced mobility: Chambéry (Savoie), Saint-Amand-Montrond (Dear)… Communities finally offer long-term rental of electric bicycle, so that the elderly can see if this form of transport suits them. “It works really well, notes Laura Foglia, daily mobility manager in the Shift project. And there is often an opportunity to subsequently buy these bikes at an attractive price”. Last alternative for elderly people who lack balance: electric tricycles, which arrived recently. “It is a gigantic market that is opening up”, Marie Chéron is convinced.

Towards alternative solutions

“The range of transport options is generally much wider than we think”, assures Laura Foglia, Head of Daily Mobility at Shift Project. But in order to know them, you have to go fishing for information and unfortunately it is not easy. Scientists have even given a name to this skill that each person must move, differently according to people: “motility”. You can get information from “mobility centres”, sometimes set up by public authorities. Find the public transport site in your region that simulates routes, for example “Pass Pass” in Hauts-de-France. Contact your town hall. Or use a mobility aid association, such as Mobilex or Wimoov.

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