Europe tries for greener transport
By Paul Burall in Challenge
Paul Burall looks at some experiments in cleaning up urban transport
Most cities are a transport nightmare, with congestion and pollution defeating they key aims of creating pleasant places for people to live with easy access to amenities. But while UK planners tend to wait for grand engineering solutions to these problems, their European counterparts are experimenting with small-scale improvements that are quick to implement.
La Rochelle in western France has led the way with its 'Liselec' shared electric car scheme. For a small fee, residents or visitors can buy a smart card for a day or a week that will give them access around the clock to a fleet of 50 electric cars available at seven key sites around the city. Use the smart card for access and you can drive anywhere in the city at modest cost, with free parking thrown in at any of the pickup stations.
An additional benefit is that the smart card gives free access to bicycles, again at set points around the city. In its first year, the scheme gained 250 members - mostly aged under 35 years - who made a total of 15,000 trips.
La Rochelle is also cleaning up its bus fleet by using biodiesel and has equipped one of its local ferries with electric motors and an automated battery recharging system.
Free smart cards have been used for some years in Amsterdam and Copenhagen to provide access to bicycles at strategic points and a similar scheme was successfully introduced in Rennes two years ago.
Roller skating may seem an unlikely component of an urban transport system, but it can be popular.
Already around 5 million French people use roller skates to get around and in Germany the figure is double that. A study carried out for the French government has suggested a number of ways of making France's flatter towns more roller skate friendly by, for example, creating more clearly defined routes and times of the day when skaters can travel safely.
A useful booklet on other schemes in Europe aimed at the persuading drivers to use their cars less in cities is available free from the European Commission. Titled Monitoring Progress Towards Sustainable Urban Mobility. The report evaluates what has been tried in five very different European cities, ranging from Barcelona - where the objective has been to achieve consensus on a 'mobility pact' - to Bremen, where the aim has been to shift the emphasis from ownership of a vehicle to simply using a service.