Pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users... When sharing sidewalks becomes complicated

Pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users… When sharing sidewalks becomes complicated

Pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users… the sidewalks, originally the preserve of pedestrians, are now the subject of sharing which does not suit everyone. And which frequently leads to conflicts of use.

It's not yet 9 o'clock this Monday morning. Like every day of the week, Jeanne has to go to her school in the Carmes district, in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne). The 26-year-old student only lives ten minutes away on foot, a valuable advantage. However, his journey through this charming district of the historic center is not a long, quiet river. Today, in the narrow streets framed by red brick facades, she must avoid a delivery truck parked on the sidewalk, slalom between scattered trash cans and bicycles hanging from the guardrails. All while paying attention to the cars, cyclists and scooters that come in your way.

The student is used to this traffic jam. “I look to the right, to the left and I push myself,” she says simply. But she admits it: in this neighborhood, pedestrians cannot feel safe anywhere. Not even on their reserved land, the sidewalks. Odile Maurin, president of the Toulouse Handi-Social association, deplores this situation every day. The sixty-year-old uses a wheelchair. Unlike Jeanne, she cannot get on or off the sidewalk. “I only go there when it is not hindered,” she explains. Otherwise, I take the road. However, this presents a danger. » Odile Maurin does not budge: Toulouse is not a city suitable for pedestrians.

Usage conflicts

The Occitan metropolis also received a grade D, that is to say “moderately favorable”, in the 2023 Walkable Cities Barometer published last September. The survey, implemented by the Place aux pedestrians collective, evaluated more than 230 French cities and questioned nearly 70,000 users about their experience as a pedestrian. Result: a general average of 9.2/20 for France and an overall negative opinion which highlights an essential fact: the presence of conflicts of use. According to the survey, 81% of people with reduced mobility think it is dangerous to travel on foot; especially for the elderly. “Scooters, bicycles, skateboards… all objects moving faster than pedestrians create particularly serious nuisances for seniors. They are often taken by surprise, because their visual acuity decreases, as do their reflexes. However, if they fall or stumble, it does not have the same consequences as at 20 years old,” explains a permanent member of the Old'up association.

Like Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), more and more cities have decided to tackle the problem. With 43% of trips being made on foot in the city, numerous developments have been made to benefit pedestrians. “In certain neighborhoods, we have imposed limited traffic zones to prohibit access to vehicles,” describes Valérie Faucheux, deputy mayor responsible for mobility and travel. Only rights holders can access it. We have also reduced the capacity of two lanes and are developing our network of cycle paths. » A measure also implemented in Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin) and which has changed Gabrielle Boeckel's daily life. With more than 600 km of cycle routes, the Alsatian capital offers the first cycle network in France. The sixty-year-old now abandons her bulky car for her bicycle, which she rides every day to go to work: a journey of around forty minutes. From now on, the majority of his trips are pleasant to him: the slopes are large, the landscape relaxing. But as you approach the entrance to the city, the journey gets tougher. “There are a lot of people on the cycle paths,” she notes. I sometimes feel a knot in my stomach when approaching certain major intersections, for fear of getting knocked down. »

Developing is not enough

So, to feel safe, he sometimes drives on the sidewalk. Valérie Faucheux draws the same observation in Rennes: “The massification of cycling is recent in France, she recalls, and certain cyclists who do not have a B license do not master the Highway Code while others are not equipped enough or do not feel seasoned enough to go down on the road… But I bet that usage will improve in the years to come. » In the meantime, it is counting on a cordial understanding between users, and on security agents who raise awareness (and fines) motorists and cyclists to respect the code. The elected official insists: development is a solution, but not a panacea. Especially since it depends on the size, site and history of the city. But everywhere, for user conflicts to be reduced, everyone must be able to feel safe. This feeling occurs in particular through the lowering of the speed limit… for cars. Since September 4, 2023, Rennes has become zone 30. “Even if it proves complicated to respect this threshold, the inhabitants found this measure normal in such a dense city,” affirms Valérie Faucheux. Regulating automobile flow in this way gives back the road to cyclists and fans of electric scooters, and consequently the sidewalks, and smiles, to pedestrians. QED.

What does the Highway Code say?

Defined by regulations as “vulnerable” users, pedestrians remain the most protected by law. They must circulate in areas dedicated to them, such as pedestrian areas and shoulders, or even sidewalks. Concerning the latter, the Highway Code (article R.412-34) reserves their use; and, by extension, to “people who drive a child's car, a sick or disabled car, or any other small vehicle without an engine” as well as people in wheelchairs. This includes users of rollerblades, skateboards or non-motorized scooters whose speed must not exceed 6 km/h.

Drivers of motorized vehicles such as electric scooters, just like cyclists (motorized or not), are required to dismount and hold their vehicle by hand. The only exception is children under 8 years old.

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