In a city historically dominated by cars, the paradigm is shifting and sustainable mobility is taking center stage in land-use planning strategies. Many opportunities are opening up for the landscaping sector, from bike lanes to depaving, that can provide the most appropriate solutions for the sustainable development of urban mobility. Get yourself in the right position now to win major new contracts!
© Photo credit: Michele Ursi / Adobe Stock
Opportunity 1: bike lanes shift to a higher gear
This is the most visible sustainable mobility development. Walking, electric scooters and bicycles, not to mention inline skates and skateboards, are becoming increasingly popular for daily commuting. In France, the number of bike trips in 2022 were 52% higher than in 2019 (1). This is due in part to users' growing environmental awareness, but also to the need to control the transportation budget, which has been severely impacted by the energy crisis.
At the same time, local authorities are encouraging the use of soft mobility to reduce air pollution, relieve traffic congestion, and keep their populations in good health. Many are including bike lanes and intermodal areas in their sustainable urban development strategies.
The creation of "exclusive" bike lanes (separated from the road) requires the expertise of landscape professionals in fields far more varied than simply greening lanes, such as:
- creating shade coverage and rest areas;
- creating bike parking lots in the vicinity of stations or close to public transportation;
- rehabilitation and transformation of old railroad lines into greenways;
- the use of low-impact surfacing on bike lanes;
- installation of passive luminaires;
- and so on.
It has been estimated that to encourage the growth of soft mobility, between 50,000 km and 90,000 km of bike lanes should be built by 2050 in France alone (2).
Landscaping makes a place for itself in the transportation networks. Find original ideas to combine road infrastructure and plants!
Opportunity 2: sustainable mobility makes room for sidewalks
With the deployment of soft and intermodal transportation, the flow of users is gradually shifting from roads to sidewalks. However, sidewalks are poorly adapted to this new flow of urban mobility as they are too narrow, lack shade, are blocked by restaurant terraces and delivery trucks, and wheelchair and baby carriage access is difficult...
Sidewalk use is highly debated, and if they are to be made wider, or if streets are to be pedestrianized, the divergent interests of motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, businesses and local residents must be reconciled. The simple fact that streets are no longer considered as simple thoroughfares, but rather as living spaces (festive, social, political, etc.) leads town planners to rethink these paths by including rest, relaxation, and intermodal waiting areas. The need for close collaboration between elected representatives, architects and landscape architects is more pressing than ever for such projects!
In the center of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, one of the main four-lane arterial roads underwent a radical transformation in 2015 (3). Slovenska Street was reduced to two lanes reserved for deliveries and public transportation. The rest of the street was redesigned to accommodate pedestrianization:
- bike lanes
- two intermodal areas
- rows of flowering ash trees
- new street furniture
- friendly café and bistro terraces...
Even the longest avenues can be adapted to sustainable mobility... if you plan ahead. This project began in 2008 with minor improvements, followed by the construction of a bypass road, and then a test phase during which the street was closed intermittently for three years, and was completed in 2015.
Slovenska Street in 1961
© Wikimédia Commons
Opportunity 3: Tar is out, soil is in!
Tarmac roads prevent the soil from absorbing rainwater and cause temperatures to rise in urban areas. If sustainable mobility succeeds in freeing road space, why not consider depaving the soil? Landscape professionals’ in-depth knowledge of plants, water management, soil decontamination techniques and natural surfaces, make them ideal partners for a sustainable urban development strategy that brings nature back to the city.
The truth is, we only make minor use of paved roads. To detect unused areas, town planners use the sneckdown method: during snowfall, the areas of the pavement actually used by motor vehicles can be identified and converted into pedestrian areas or bike lanes. If there is no snow, autumn leaves can do the trick! In Australia, some communities have simply covered their pavements with... flour.
Despite these measures that contribute to sustainable mobility, green cities cannot completely get rid of motor vehicles. Landscape professionals can offer greening services for buildings to capture the remaining CO2 and muffle noise, while continuing to create green spaces that provide multiple benefits. The sector has a bright future ahead and will be showcasing its best solutions at the upcoming Paysalia trade show!
(1) Ministère de l'Écologie: Le vélo et la marche, des modes de déplacement vertueux et avantageux
(2) FNTP: Les aménagements cyclables : se déplacer autrement et plus sobrement
(3) Eurocities: The new life of Ljubljana’s main street