INSIGHT – The communes, which make up the Grenoble Metropolis, have decided, by an overwhelming majority, to gradually reduce the speed limit to 30 km/h in the region, from the second half of 2016. A first in France on large city scale. Objectives: to improve safety and reduce pollution. A decision that was not unanimous, however, especially in the economic world.
The 50 km/h speed limit signs at the entrance of the municipalities, in the Grenoble area, will all be replaced. Starting in the second half of 2016, it will not be possible to drive at more than 30 km/h, except on certain major routes, which will remain limited at 50 km/h. Therefore, we will no longer speak of ’30 zones’, but of ’50 zones’, the latter becoming the exception.
A regulatory framework for a ‘calmer metropolis’, which aims to improve the coexistence between cars and the most vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists
Reduce the risk of collision injuries with pedestrians
For Yann Mongaburu, vice president in charge of travel in the Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, safety, particularly for children and elderly people, is at the heart of the challenges for a calmer metropolis. « When we cross our towns and villages, each person must be respected and feel secure in public areas », he explains. Of course, highlights the official, car users must have their place, just like other modes of travel.
That includes walking, « too often forgotten, and which currently represents 30% of journeys in Metro, » he says.
« This is a pragmatic measure, if not common sense. Speed moderation can divide the risk of injury in a collision between a car and a pedestrian by nine », explains Yann Mongaburu. He adds, « A car travelling at 50 km/h, which strikes a pedestrian, causes one death every second. If travelling at 30 km/h, this risk is divided by nine ». This is one of the determining factors for the safety of people in public areas, according to the official.
Acceleration responsible for 30% of emissions
What about the impact on pollution? Besides the fact that a car rarely reaches a speed of 50 km/h in town, the idea is to play on the effects of acceleration and deceleration, rather than on the actual speed throughout the journey. Indeed, the speed limits in the urban areas are too complex and accentuate the phenomenon of regime changes. « By harmonizing and simplifying the rules, while playing on these parameters, we not only improve security, but we also play on pollution. »
« We know that acceleration is responsible for 30% of the pollutant emissions related to road traffic », affirms Yann Mongaburu. However, the vice-president of the metropolis is well aware that there might be resistance. « For a rule to be accepted, it needs to be understood », he tempers. « This will allow us to make speed moderation rule more understandable, easier for our citizens. We are betting that they will have more respect, if they understand it better. »
Six ‘dissident’ communes in the agglomeration
« This approach is not in any case imposed. It is based on communal will. This is the basis of the project. The metropolis is the host of this metropolitan dynamic, on an unprecedented scale », highlights Christophe Ferrari, the president of the metropole, who welcomes that « this dynamic transcends all of the political sensitivities of the communes. »
In fact, the city officials have literally seized the bull by the horns, using a provision of the energy transition law. Passed during the summer, it provides an opportunity for municipalities to set a maximum speed lower than the official limit.
However, apparently not all of them are convinced of the relevance of this approach. Six towns out of the forty-nine that make up the metropolis, have refused, for now, to join the project.
Christophe Ferrari, however, has no doubt that some will come round: « The process is starting. Others will join us after City Council debates, with their elected representatives », he reassuringly predicts.
Among the six ‘dissident’ communes, the first deputy of the municipality of Meylan, Jean-Claude Peyrin, spoke in an article in Le Monde on 15th September.
« This is a false ‘good idea’. We have ‘30 zones’ in Meylan, but to establish a speed limit, it is necessary that motorists consider it legitimate. Prohibit just to prohibit, it is not useful, » he declared.
Again we speak about competences transferred to the metropolis…
There are elected officials who go further and raise other questions. This is the case of Jean-Damien Mermillod-Blondin, Mayor of Corenc and community Advisor. « The real problem of the metropolis, where it slips up, is ‘how do you drive at 30 km/h in many places, and during different times of the day, in view of the congestion level in each agglomeration?' », considers the official.
If the Mayor accepts this limitation in the interest of consistency, it will be under several conditions.
« Firstly, it will be me who decides where the ’30 zones’ will be. Secondly, as agreed, it will be the metropolis that pays for signalling. Thirdly, it makes realistic proposals about where we drive at less than 30km/h and at 30 km/h. Fourthly, I want the Metropole to review its position on the enlargement of the A480 ». Indeed, he considers that this fourth condition is one of the first solutions to be implemented, in order to begin decongesting the city.
In order to better understand the representative’s position, it must be known that during passage in the Metropolis, each of the mayors was asked whether or not they would waive their power to police traffic on the roads. Optional jurisdiction in this case. Mayors who did not give up this jurisdiction have the legal right not to submit to Metropolitan will. It will be up to them to determine zones and corresponding speed limits. Suddenly, not so simple. The harmonization and consistency desired by the Metropolis may suffer a major setback!
AN ONLINE SUGGESTION BOX
In addition to the regulatory changes, it is also an opportunity for the communes to redesign public spaces. Grenoble-Alpes Métropole seeks the expertise of its people, to do this; an ‘online suggestion box’ is already in place.
This is the people’s chance to propose their ideas, such as the pedestrianization of certain streets during certain hours, placing benches, or even the reconfiguration of places and areas surrounding schools. It’s open to the imagination!
« This is not revolution, but evolution »
For Christophe Ferrari, it is not a question of « revolution, but evolution. » As evidence, he cites the calculations provided by road services, which tend to show the weak influence the new measures would have on the flow of traffic.
The figures show that in the case of a limitation of 50 km/h, the average travel speed is 18.9 km/h, and in the case of a limitation of 30 km/h, it is 17.3 km/h. The difference would be insignificant.
The President of the Metropolis is convinced: « This action is the beginning of a new way of thinking about the question of public spaces, to improve cohabitation between different modes of travel, reduce pollution and revitalize the local shops. » Implicitly with the hope of increasing the attractiveness of the public transport network.
Revitalize trade? Not sure…
Regarding the revitalization of commerce, Jean Vaylet, president of Grenoble’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), does not believe it will. « Reducing the speed is a somewhat dogmatic approach. As head of the economic world, I believe that anything that reduces the flow of traffic is anti-economic », declares the president, denouncing a lack of consistency with the problems of the local economy. « We would prefer to give a better image of Grenoble, than with subjects of this type. I do not think that this will revitalize trade at all, and the traders are of the same opinion! »
A view shared by Philippe Gueydon, president of Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) in Isère. « This is another way to constrain movement around Grenoble, while businesses need the exact opposite! » he deplores.
« All the statistics in our possession show that Grenoble, and more generally the south of the department, is in the process of an economic decline. Our performance is below the national average. »
It is not for lack of having activated the alarm, according to him. « For several years, the Medef has been trying to educate the elected officials on the problem of movement around the Grenoble basin. We have to advance on solutions! What the enterprises expect is that it is only a better fluidity of traffic, and not a generalization of the speed limit to 30 km/h, which will bring about this result. »
He considers that one single measure might have worked, on condition that was put in place, in parallel with a real program of investment in the infrastructure of roads. « Then it would have made sense! » concluded the president.
80 % ’30 ZONES’ IN GRENOBLE IN JANUARY, 2016
What about Grenoble’s city centre? Not surprisingly, the city of Grenoble fully supports the initiative, almost 80% of the municipalities of the metropolis are in agreement. On the subject of the new future speed limits, there will be a short delay at the beginning, but this will be sorted out quickly, if one believes Eric Piolle, the mayor of Grenoble.
« Today we are less advanced than others, with only 25% of lanes restricted to 30 km/h. It will be 80% from January 2016, » says the official.
For the implementation of the speed limit plan, the official emphasizes the special attention that will be paid to the situation of the elderly, who are increasing in numbers, and to children, especially in regards to areas around schools and to their safety. An opportunity for him to take another look at the school plan, where the idea of a « city for the children » is widely discussed, and finds its translation in the idea of a calmer metropolis.
Traduction from Speak English Center
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