The New Regulation of Traffic Calming Areas in France
S Martin, French Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Territorial Planning, FR
The French legal framework now provides a thiner formal set of road network planning rules to help road managers perform a better balance between motorised vehicles, cycles and pedestrians.
A new official framework to share public space more fairly
In France, the road network used to be primarily designed regarding car drivers' needs, and generally oriented to improve traffic flows. However, this network is also the public place where local life is expressed and developed: businesses, education, culture, social activities, etc. Furthermore, society now plebiscites green modes of transport for urban journeys. It is also concerned with improving safety of vulnerable people, and considering the needs of handicapped people. The French legal framework needed a thiner formal set of road network planning rules to help road managers perform a better balance between motorised vehicles, cycles and pedestrians. This is the central motivation behind the work of the government, politicians, transport professionals and user associations and their involvement in the ?code de la rue? project in 2006.
Henceforth, the ?Code de la route? (French highway code) has changed following decree of July 2008. It includes a legal redefinition of specific traffic calming zones in urban environments. The concept of the pedestrian priority zone is created between pedestrian area an 30kph zone. Finally, two-way cycle traffic in 30 kph zones and pedestrian priority zone is generalized.
Creating pedestrian priority zone (?zone de rencontre?)
The pedestrian priority zone is a new concept in the highway code that takes its inspiration from the Belgian, Swiss and German examples. It is an area opened to all forms of transport, where priority is unambiguously given to pedestrians over motor vehicle traffic, except trams. Thus, pedestrians can move with total freedom across the entire width of the road. This leads to a reduction in speed for vehicles to less than 20 kph. Motorized vehicles may only stop and park in designated areas.
This regulation is particularly appropriate for places where traffic is balanced out with sojourn and other spatial functions. By the way, many existing places, where behaviours are naturally based upon the road users' politeness, common sense and social interaction, could be considered as pedestrian priority zones avant la lettre.
The design of such places should cut in the abundance of traffic signs and regulation elements. Yet, it requires intelligible installations: the driver must spontaneously understand that the pedestrian has right of way in an environment that is as user-friendly as possible. This is why it is important to notice that the general basic principles for the design of pedestrian priority zones are consistent with the French regulations concerning the accessibility of public spaces. The government made a concerted effort to consider the needs of people with reduced mobility. Hence, within the definition of each traffic calming zone, a continuous and obstacle-free route is provided for people with reduced mobility, including the blind. Furthermore, where possible, pedestrian priority zones also include dedicated, clearly-indicated, pedestrian only zones.
Redefining the pedestrian area and the 30kmph zone
By creating the notion of a pedestrian priority zone, this decree modifies the definition of the pedestrian area and the 30 kph zone and provides them, to a certain extent, with a new status and greater intelligibility
The pedestrian area is now clearly a zone dedicated to pedestrians. They have priority over all vehicles except trams. Authorised vehicles, including cycles, move at walking speed. Motorised vehicles only use these zones on exceptional occasions and according to specific traffic regulations.
The 2008 version of the 30 kph zone is more like a space where a balance is sought between traffic functions and local life. These aims may refer to a large part of the road network, and they can be reached by using simplified development principles as means of action. For this reason, the new regulation is paving the way to cities where the norm would be 30 kph and 50 kph an exception applying to just a few roads. Some French cities are already committed in such ambitious policies.
Reinforcing cycling as a transport option
In order to encourage cycle use in these zones and to dissuade cyclists from using the pavements on one-way streets open to vehicles, the new regulation now stipulates that in 30 kph zones and in pedestrian priority zones, all the roadways are two-way for cyclists, unless otherwise stated and justified by the mayor.
The changes in the law encourage discussion between parties : urban planning policy-makers and professionals are finding new legal and technical solutions for setting traffic calming zones on a widespread basis.
Association for European Transport