Communities innovating in rural mobility
Rural communities are inventing new shared mobility solutions, encouraged by the French Ministry of Transport.
In Louviers, a town in Normandy with 18,000 residents, the one-way street leading to the secondary and primary school was becoming more congested every morning. Looking for a solution to reduce the traffic, the regional council opened the door to a green mobility option for bringing primary school children to school, setting its sights on an unusual device called S’cool bus. This shared bike with eight seats is used to pick children up from their homes every morning and drive them the few kilometres to their school. The project has come a long way since it was set up in 2017: more than half of the 170 children from the Louviers school have now signed up to the free transport programme. The organisation running the bus has since become a fully fledged company with 12 employees and serves five new towns. Having recently won the “France Mobilités” label for innovative transport solutions, this fun, environmentally friendly solution is sure to start a trend elsewhere in France.
Encouraging innovation in rural areas
Personal cars are still the only way to get around in suburban and sparsely populated areas. In an attempt to broaden the range of transport solutions on offer and meet the needs of those without cars, France’s mobility strategy bill proposes giving local authorities far-reaching new powers in the organisation and financing of mobility services. The Ministry of Transport, under the banner of France Mobilités, has launched a call for projects to support this initiative. The approach aims to mobilise local authorities and help them deploy new solutions, such as car sharing, self-service vehicles and a revamped version of hitchhiking.
From solo to shared
France Mobilités has also recognised an initiative in Pays du Lunévillois, a region in the country’s northeast with 159 towns and 80,000 residents. The only travel options in this sparsely populated region with an ageing population are two bus routes and an on-demand transport reservation centre. Speaking at “mobility” workshops organised to help understand daily local needs, residents said they would be happy to work together to get from A to B. A call for projects was held, and car sharing to work emerged as the leading solution. Its goal is to offer an alternative option to personal cars, making it easier for people to access employment and training. Hervé Bertrand, President of Pays du Lunévillois, believes that “we need to rise to the challenge of moving from solo to shared journeys”. To this end, the conurbation decided to call on Klaxit, the French leader in commuter car sharing. The start-up works with local businesses, the Baccarat crystal manufacturer, Lunéville Hospital and even supermarkets, making employers ambassadors of the service among their staff.
Besides the platform’s promise to “put the magic back into daily travel”, its most attractive feature is its pricing structure, which offers users genuine savings. In these rural areas, people often live 30 to 40 kilometres away from their work. Given that each passenger contributes 10 cents per kilometre, the car owner can make up to €8 in one journey. The conurbation has committed to reducing these costs to encourage passengers to get on board, using the transport contribution paid by local companies to subsidise shared journeys made via the Klaxit platform so that passengers only pay one euro for trips under 40 kilometres.
The Grand Est Mobilis project, like many other initiatives supported by France Mobilités, will help to reinvent rural mobility. At the same time, the French government has set up a collaborative platform for these types of local initiatives, connecting project leaders and helping them roll out these new solutions.