Between the measures concerning cars and those concerning public and decarbonised transport, the real problem of car dependency is not very present in the electoral programmes.

Lumières de la Ville (Translated by Shashwati Shankar)

Sign Up

Subscribe

By signing up to the Autonomy newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from us that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.

Within all political domains, mobility remains to be an environmental issue. The current ecological emergency requires us to think about new, less polluting and more sustainable ways of getting around. However, if the subject has its rightful place in the electoral debate, it is noticeable that in certain programmes it is very rarely addressed. Despite this, there are two distinct schools of thought among the different political parties.

Free transport is supported by most of the left-wing candidates, Philippe Poutou wants to develop 100% public and free transport, while Fabien Roussel aims to make urban public transport a public action priority as well as make it free, thanks to an increase in the transport payment paid by large companies. For his part, Jean-Luc Mélenchon focused his strategy on current events and took up the subject by promising free public transport for all,  as long as the fuel crisis persists.

More purchasing power for motorists?

Fuel prices have been at record highs since the beginning of the year, regularly breaking the record set the week before. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, prices soared. Today there is a slight drop, with prices back below two euros per litre, but concerns about the future of our car travel persist. These concerns are at the heart of the mobility component for some presidential candidates. One of Marine Le Pen’s few proposals on mobility is to give back purchasing power to motorists, and more broadly to citizens, by reducing VAT on energy products as basic necessities from 20% to 5.5% for fuel, oil, gas and electricity. Anne Hidalgo also follows the RN candidate in proposing the same measure but only applied to fuels. For others, like Valérie Pécresse, there is no question of touching this VAT. The LR candidate considers the measure to be far too costly for public finances, which are already too indebted.

Will we still need fuel for our cars?

Last July, the European Commission announced that it would submit to the Council of Europe a proposal to ban the sale of all combustion engines, including hybrids in 2035. This proposal was widely debated in the European Union and was received as a slap in the face by France, which was campaigning to exclude hybrids from the reform and extend the deadline to 2040. On the contrary, for the candidate of Europe Écologie Les Verts, it is desirable that this proposal be effective from 2030 in France, for the majority of the other candidates the deadlines are too fast and ambitious for such a transition.

There is a consensus on the rejection of all-electricity. The France Insoumise and the Rassemblement National agree that 100% electric is not the solution, and that decarbonised hydrogen technologies should be given a chance. For the Republican candidate, as well as for the candidate of the République En Marche, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are the immediate solution that would allow for a transition towards a completely electric vehicle, although we are well aware that this energy hybridisation is not the perfect solution. We are also aware that the financial investment is, for the moment, too high for a majority of French people, several candidates have proposed measures to facilitate the acquisition of an electric vehicle. Emmanuel Macron is offering a €1,000 bonus to enable those who have a vehicle manufactured before 2001 to buy a cleaner vehicle. While Anne Hidalgo would set up a social leasing scheme in partnership with vehicle manufacturers and leasers, to allow individuals to have access to an electric vehicle at a lower monthly cost than a petrol vehicle.

The electric vehicle is not, however, envisaged by all: for the Reconquête party, the switch to electric vehicles would be seen as the destruction of a powerful and remarkable tool. Éric Zemmour, a supporter of the car, would like to ease the restrictions on the sector and its users, as does Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who is fighting against the harassment of motorists. These battles are based on increased speed in the city and on departmental roads, the abolition of demerit points, the reduction of parking fines and the abolition of traffic restrictions linked to the extension of low emission zones.

What about soft mobility?

In contrast to the previous measures, Mr Mélenchon and Mr Jadot are encouraging « vélorution » (i.e. a bike revolution) and reducing dependence on the car by reducing the presence of the car in large urban areas. This change of model would be achieved through urban redevelopment to give more space to soft mobility and encourage its use. In his programme, Jean-Luc Mélenchon proposes in particular to redevelop departmental roads to make them safer for cyclists, to co-finance cycling and cycle parking infrastructures, and also to make such parking compulsory in all new buildings and building renovations in towns and at workplaces.

Soft mobility is a national interest. Cycling is not only environmentally friendly, it is also a growing means of travel. The global pandemic has led to a sharp increase in its use, with 28% more trips in cities since 2019. After containment, the cycling revival has led to the creation of cycling infrastructure at a staggering rate in major cities. The tactically developed coronapistes (cycling pathways made during the pandemic) have become permanent, which has considerably improved the mobility of cyclists. In this context, Yannick Jadot is proposing an investment fund of 500 million euros per year dedicated to the development and safety of cycle paths, but also to the loan of a bicycle for every young person between 16 and 25 years of age. This will limit the use of cars and consequently their dependence on them.

Rural areas more dependent on the car

Dependence on the car in cities is much lower than in rural areas. In the countryside, there is almost no provision for soft mobility or public transport, which forces people to use their cars. Few candidates have commented on the subject, although Philippe Poutou and Jean Lassalle briefly mention opening up the countryside through transport. However, the number one objective of the mobility section of our current president’s programme is to offer an alternative to the car, to allow the emancipation of all through free travel. Since it is often necessary to use several modes of transport if one does not want to use the car, the candidate proposes to connect them. He therefore plans to issue a call for projects for the construction of multimodal infrastructures and for the research of intermodal solutions by the agglomerations. He also wishes to act on the mobility of workers on the outskirts of cities, just like Nathalie Arthaud, by developing aid to enable them to return to work.

Finally, on the theme of mobility in the city, we note that few address mobility in all its modes. On the right, it is mainly a question of responding to the issues linked to the automobile sector, supporting the transition to non-thermal vehicles and facilitating their access. On the left, where we also find measures on this subject, there is more talk of soft mobility and free public transport. In all cases, the environmental and ecological dimension pertaining to transportation is addressed by all the French political candidates, however with varying degrees of investment and involvement depending on the candidate.