It’s official! Le Monde reports that the French are using their cars less for the first time since the 1974 oil crisis. According to official figures released by Les Comptes Des Transports, French drivers used their cars 1.4 percent less in 2005 than the previous year. That trend widened in 2006, with a 2 percent drop compared with 2005. Is it too early to start talking about a new post-car era?
At any rate, alternatives to the private car have been proliferating and public transportation usage has been increasing steadily at an annual rate of 5-6 percent, thanks to a constantly improving range of choices centred on electric trams, trains and the métro. Since petrol prices started rising in 2003, French drivers have been quick to shift to other options for short journeys.
The recent runaway success of bicycle-sharing schemes suggests that city dwellers are ready to embrace alternatives to the car-centric lifestyle. Denis Baupin, deputy mayor of Paris for transport, has described the bicycle as “a new alternative to public transportation, in the same league as the tram or the métro.” “Velib” in Paris is not just a transport phenomenon, it’s a social transformation. Blogs dedicated to “Velib” have proliferated in recent weeks and the latest figures published by Figaroscope testify to the scope of the “Velib” movement: since the scheme was launched in mid-July, a total of 4.5 million rentals have been clocked up, making a total of 7 million kilometres pedalled on 10,600 bicycles available at 880 rental stations.