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Strasbourg, the European crossroads pioneering the world of mobility

27.09.2019

A laboratory of innovative mobility solutions for some 30 years, the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg has initiated a new policy to further embed itself in the European network.

With a vibrant urban area boasting more than 10,000 jobs and an historic city centre with a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, mobility in Alsace’s main city has long been a key challenge.

Already back in the 1990s, Strasbourg introduced a comprehensive mobility policy to pedestrianise the city centre, develop cycle lanes, organise regional rail transport to connect towns and the surrounding metropolitan areas, and introduce the tramway. These developments led to radical transformation in the city centre.

The policy paid off, because with its 600 kilometres of cycle lanes, Strasbourg is now France’s most cycle-friendly city. According to the latest survey conducted by France’s office for national statistics (INSEE), nearly 16% of the city’s residents commute to work by bike. In all, six tramway lines serve eight neighbourhoods, including Kehl, which is located just across the German border.

A mobility round table

The current system is however reaching its limits. All flows of transport lead to the centre, causing unpredictable congestion and commuting times, especially when it comes to accessing the city centre by car.

Much like elsewhere in France, people living in the suburbs do not have any competitive alternatives to using their cars. All that local automotive traffic comes in addition to significant flows of goods arriving from the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam or Hamburg, which then go on to supply Europe by lorry.

“The A35 motorway was built in the 1960s for 80,000 vehicles a day. Today, it carries more than double that figure in choked conditions that we are all victims of on a daily basis,” explained Robert Hermann, President of the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg. That is why “the government decided to implement a project for a city bypass, which will also come with a ban on heavy vehicles on the existing A35. The motorway bypass is expected to be commissioned by 2021,” he added.

However, in order to deal more generally with urban congestion and to strengthen Strasbourg’s position in Europe, Robert Hermann has chosen to foster collaboration between the stakeholders. He set up a round table with the relevant leaders from the Grand Est region, the Bas-Rhin department and the government, as well as experts, employers and non-profit organisations, with the goal of collectively developing innovative mobility solutions.

Reinforcing its strengths

Providing residents in the inner and outer suburbs with better commuting options was the top local priority at the round table discussions. To achieve it, the Eurometropolis chose to focus on an express train line (REM), which will strengthen links between the various urban centres in the region by relying on the existing rail and motorway networks. The programme includes high-frequency services and long operating hours to encourage those living in the suburbs to get around without a car. The network itself will even undergo a revamp, as Strasbourg’s central railway station is currently the start or end of the line for the majority of regional express train lines. The star‑shaped network, with Strasbourg at its centre, results in time-consuming connections at the station. Structuring urban and interurban networks better will, for example, enable passengers to get to Haguenau or Obernai without having to change train. In this way, lines passing through the capital of Alsace will not always end at the central station, but may instead be extended to stop in towns other than Strasbourg. Lastly, intercity coaches will complement the network when there are no rail connections.

Investing in active methods

Reorganising the transport network to enhance the Eurometropolis’ links appears to be an effective solution for residents in towns located in the surrounding metropolitan and greater metropolitan area. But as with most big cities, two-thirds of trips in Strasbourg and its urban area represent less than three kilometres, meaning that active methods of transport such as biking or walking represent potential. Because even in France’s most cycle-friendly city, the majority of short-distance trips are made by car, contributing to the jamming of the road network. Short tram journeys also lead to network congestion, with a third of journeys covering no more than three stations. That is why optimising the city’s mobility offering and developing public transport are not enough. Soft mobility solutions, such as cycling and walking, must also be taken into account by the Eurometropolis, in order to boost the public transport possibilities. Off-road cycle routes and bicycle parking are being considered to make active methods more attractive and to double the proportion of cycling in the modal mix by 2030.

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