France opens first 'carpool' lane near Grenoble

The French city of Grenoble is to introduce a carpool lane on one of its main roads, which will be open to taxis, low emission cars and vehicles carrying more than one passenger from today (September 30).

30 September 2020
A car wing mirror showing heavy traffic. France will open its first carpool lane near Grenoble today (September 30)At peak hours it can take 40 minutes to drive the 8km stretch of road where the carpool lane is being opened.
By Joanna York

The lane is being opened to reduce weekday morning traffic on the A48 between the Voreppe toll booth and the Saint-Egrève junction, near the city of Grenoble. It can take up to 40 minutes to drive the 8 km stretch in the mornings, due to heavy traffic. 

The company that manages the stretch of road, Area, has now reserved a left-hand lane for cars with multiple people inside, taxis, buses and low-emission vehicles at peak traffic hours.

For now, vehicles that mistakenly use the carpool lane when they only have one person inside will see their registration number displayed on digital information panels. Fines of €135 for misuse of the lane will be introduced later this year. 

Carpooling gaining ground in France…slowly

France is somewhat behind countries such as the US, Canada and Spain, where carpool lanes have been commonplace for decades.  

It has only been legal to introduce carpool lanes in France since a law was passed in 2019 allowing authorities to do so. Before this, only buses and taxis had dedicated lanes on busy roads. However, it has been difficult for new rules to be implemented since the law was passed, as transport systems have been heavily affected by winter strikes in 2019-2020 and the Covid-19 health crisis.

Grenoble is the first town to introduce a carpool lane, but is the fourth most congested town in France, according to the TomTom 2020 Traffic Index. The most congested cities, in order, are: Paris, Marseille, and Bordeaux.

In Paris, there are tentative plans to implement a carpool lane on the périphique ring road by 2024.

In Bordeaux, town planners are in favour of more carpool lanes. Bordeaux-based urban planner Jean-Marc Offner, published the book Anachronismes urbains this year, writing: “It is no longer the car that is a designated enemy, but ‘autosoloism’ - individual usage of a method of transport designed to carry four or five people.” 

Former minister for ecological transition, Elisabeth Borne, announced in 2019 the government’s ambition to make “carsharing a daily habit”, by tripling the number of communal journeys taken in France by 2024. According to Ms Borne, 70% of journeys between work and home are taken by individual drivers in France. Taking one million cars off the road every day through carsharing could reduce greenhouse gasses by 7,800 tonnes.

 

People in France in favour of fewer cars

A recent poll shows that people living in France are also in favour of reducing the number of cars on the road.

The Ifop poll, commissioned by Caroom.fr, found 62% of people living in large cities with over 100,000 inhabitants wanted local authorities to reduce car usage. Support was particularly high among young people (79% for 18-24 year-olds, and 76% for 25-34 year-olds) and supporters of environmental party EELV (95%).

People living in large cities also supported carsharing initiatives (57%) and increasing the number of local cycling lanes (55%). 

However, they were less supportive when it came to parking. In large cities, 74% of inhabitants were against reducing roadside and underground parking and 77% were against raising road parking prices.

The Ifop study for Caroom was conducted online from September 14-16, 2020. The sample included 1,017 people aged 18 and over living in mainland France, and 1,031 people living in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. 

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