Tramway, bicycle, trains… Strasbourg, queen of eco-friendly mobility – L’Express

Tramway bicycle trains Strasbourg queen of eco friendly mobility – LExpress

It’s becoming a habit… A pioneer for decades in sustainable mobility, Strasbourg is still among the best students in this discipline, all types of transport combined. She has just won the Golden Pass of the 32nd mobility rankings organized by the magazine City Rail & Transport And tops the ranking of French cities for cycling with 755 kilometers of developed lanes and 13.8% of workers using it to get to work, compared to only 4.3% in Paris! It even ranks fifth in Europe for cycling cities, behind Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Antwerp.

This success can be explained by the implementation of an avant-garde policy, driven in the 1990s by the mayor (PS) Catherine Trautmann. The city was thus the first in France to have a tramway, the commissioning of which in 1994 was accompanied by pedestrianization of the streets and the development of cycle paths along the rails. An offer later supplemented by the Vélhop networks (6,800 self-service bicycles) and Velostras, a network of cycling highways. An inspiration that comes from afar. As early as 1848, an omnibus pulled by two horses already crisscrossed its streets, while thirty years later, the first steam tram lines saw the light of day.

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If, over the years, Strasbourg has been able to maintain its title of pioneer, it is thanks to the proactive policies of elected officials, “sharing the same ecological awareness, whatever their political sensitivities”, recognizes Jeanne Barseghian, the current city councilor ( EELV) of Strasbourg. Not to mention the countless programs put in place to support residents: from the “To work by bike” operation to the generalization of learning to ride a two-wheeler in schools and social housing neighborhoods, “where it is a autonomy tool for young people”, underlines Alain Jund, vice-president of the Eurométropole in charge of mobility. The community also offers free transport for those under 18 and financial aid for the acquisition of a clean vehicle.

“Unfortunately, Strasbourg has rested on its laurels,” nevertheless believes the mayor, elected in July 2020. This is because with the crises, investments have been restricted while, since Covid, other cities have developed kilometers of cycle paths everywhere. “As a result, we have lost part of our lead,” she laments. “But we are giving it a boost by massively reinvesting in the issue of mobility.” At his side, the president of the Eurometropolis Pia Imbs (without label) has made it the priority of her mandate, “a choice dictated by the climate, social and health emergency”, she specifies. Together, they have imagined bold programs to carry out what they call the “mobility revolution”. Amounts invested: nearly 500 million euros over one mandate.

Give back to Prachtallee its old-world charm

The cornerstone of their project remains the tramway. While the six lines in the city center are saturated with more than 325,000 travelers per day, two extensions are planned to the west and north of the city for entry into service scheduled for 2027. “Hundreds of thousands of residents of the agglomeration will then be connected to an efficient transport network, directly linked to the station”, underlines the mayor of Strasbourg. However, the idea makes opposition elected officials cringe. “We are not against the extension of the tram, but in disagreement with its development,” they proclaim in unison. First concern: cost. Initially budgeted at 120 million euros, the project now amounts to… 268 million euros, before the first sod has been given. “With inflation, it could reach 400 million euros!” worries centrist Pierre Jakubowicz. The dispute also concerns the planned route along Avenue des Vosges, the main artery of the Neustadt (imperial district) classified by UNESCO, which it should use to serve Schiltigheim and Bischheim to the north. “We will thus reduce the nuisance generated by traffic on one of the most polluted roads in Strasbourg,” defends the environmentalist mayor, who wishes to give back to this Prachtallee (splendid driveway) its old-world charm. Exit the cars, make way for pedestrians and bicycles! For its part, Place Haguenau will turn into a 16-hectare park.

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“It is a poor understanding of the needs of the traders and liberal professions who use it every day, as well as those of the large families who live there and have to park there,” retorts Jean-Philippe Vetter, municipal councilor and Eurometropolitan (LR). This route will create traffic jams around the avenue, degrading air quality!” The opposition therefore pleads for other arrangements, more effective and less expensive in its opinion. Pierre Jakubowicz thus concocted a “counter-project”, nourished by five public meetings bringing together 500 participants and more than 1,000 citizen contributions. According to the Horizons elected official, “the tram should pass through the quays and Avenue des Vosges be redeveloped, with the construction of a green breakthrough and a two-way cycle path on its own site”, he explains. And this without calling into question the car.

On the route of the future Paris-Berlin TGV

Not enough to deviate from her path Pia Imbs, who dreams of transforming the Alsatian capital into a European crossroads. It is thanks to her that the city, seat of the Union Parliament, appears on the route of the future Paris-Berlin TGV line. Already, the European Metropolitan Express Network (Reme), connected to three German Länder and Basel (Switzerland), has 650 additional trains per week. “Three new lines should be created to serve the municipalities of the first and second rings,” she adds. A network which will expand with express coaches, circulating on the rail and road routes along the M351 motorway, with the construction of multimodal exchange hubs in stations facilitating links between train, car or bicycle. Since the commissioning of line G of the high-level service bus at the end of 2023 between the station and the Vauban district, which serves the main public services including the new civil hospital, the number of passengers has doubled. Ditto for the Chron’Hop bus lines, “as fast as the tram, with cadences of seven/eight minutes during peak hours”, assures Pia Imbs. While the network on-demand transport Flex’Hop is a hit in the municipalities of the second ring. Enough to ban the automobile for good? “With this range of mobility, we have observed an unprecedented drop in the number of registered cars (7,000 fewer) between 2022 and 2023,” says Pia Imbs.

That said, the mode of transport that wins all the votes remains the bicycle. If the Eurometropolis has invested 100 million euros to create new intercommunal paths, the environmentalist mayor is working on her Ring, a sort of ring road for bicycles which will run along the inner quays of the Big Island for 4 kilometers. “It will allow cyclists to bypass the city without crossing it, reducing traffic in the city center and conflicts of use with pedestrians,” she says. Strasbourg residents have converted to the little queen so well that two-wheelers are now faced with… traffic jams. The price of success.