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Urban transport, a major issue of the energy transition


It is interesting to wonder how the city of tomorrow will be organised.

How will cities adapt and transform in the face of the development of technology?

Are we going to give priority to bicycles or be invaded by drones and autonomous cars?

We will try to answer all these questions in this article.

The two main requirements of city travel are: pollution reduction and traffic improvement . If it is unlikely to see the arrival of autonomous or even flying cars like in the movies in the short term, the city of tomorrow will have to adapt to new modes of transport.


Towards a total disappearance of cars in the city?

The car will gradually give up its place in order to meet the requirements of reducing pollution and congestion in cities.

Today, in Paris, 50% of the road network is dedicated to motorized vehicles , which represent only 13% of travel modes !
There is also an issue on the professional side. Indeed, “last mile transport” represents nearly 40% of pollution in the city.

Companies are now forced to restructure their vehicle fleets and their strategy by opting for greener solutions than the good old diesel vans to make their deliveries. Many people have already opted for the cargo bike or the electric bike with trailer.

For their part, cities are taking measures to encourage alternative means of transport : urban tolls, traffic bans, pedestrianization of the banks, 30 zones, cycle lanes, etc.

cargo bike

Public transport and soft mobility, the future of urban travel?

Public transport provides the best environmental performance in relation to the number of passengers transported per kilometre. They therefore remain essential in dense areas.

Regarding the use of bicycles, if the investments are sufficient, the number of users could increase dramatically.

In Copenhagen , the capital of Denmark, reputed to be one of the European capitals with the most bicycles, 49% of journeys are made by bicycle compared to 4% (even 12 to 15% in certain cities) in France.

France is a larger country compared to Denmark for example, which implies a vision of transport as a multimodal network. Car parks could be created on the outskirts of cities to then allow users to travel by bicycle or by public transport.

Developments and road works will be necessary to develop cycle paths and reduce roads.


European plan to promote cycling

This plan was definitively adopted on May 18, 2021 . It covers 54 countries, including the 27 of the European Union . This is a major first on a European scale.

All of these countries show their desire to promote cycling as an alternative mode of transport . It is a leading initiative that responds to the climate emergency and the need to reduce CO2 emissions .

The goal being to succeed in doubling the number of bicycle trips in just 10 years , it will be essential that the governments concerned put in place a proactive policy.

Of the 54 countries involved, 16 have already adopted a national strategy , while 9 others are in the process of developing one for the first time. This therefore means that a majority of these countries still do not have a national cycling development strategy.

France is one of those countries that will have to put a lot of pedal pressure into reaching the set objective!

Here are the general recommendations provided by the plan:

  • Double the practice of cycling in the region by 2030
  • Significantly increase the practice of cycling and walking in all countries
  • Reallocate space to cycling and walking
  • Improve active mobility infrastructure in all countries
  • Improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians
  • Develop national cycling policies, strategies and plans
  • Integrate the practice of cycling into health policies , infrastructure and land use planning

The Netherlands is at the top of the ranking of countries where cycling is the most practiced , with 27% of trips made by bike.

Countries like Denmark (15%), Belgium (12%) and Germany (11%) share the top of the ranking.

France, meanwhile, is still lagging behind (2.7%). On the other hand, all have shown rising figures since 2020, in particular in response to the coronavirus health crisis.


What is the role of technology in this transformation?

This first requires massive electrification and automation of transport (buses, autonomous shuttles, electrically assisted bicycles, etc.). An autonomous metro, for example, means less energy expenditure and more transport capacity.

Second, the smart city can provide solutions to promote soft transport . There are sensors that detect when a cyclist or pedestrian is coming to automatically turn the light to red. This type of tool also makes it possible to better regulate traffic flows and avoid bottlenecks.

On the other hand, we must be wary of false good technological ideas, such as autonomous cars, which provide comfort of use but risk increasing traffic by diverting users of public transport.

Everyone is becoming increasingly aware of ecological issues . We can see that the search criteria for new vehicles are moving towards hybrid or electric models .

These new behaviors are strongly encouraged by the aid put in place for the purchase of such vehicles.

In the future, polluting vehicles will be increasingly taxed and removed from city centers so be a precursor by adopting the right actions now!