La Fabrique de la Cité's Newsletter #79

#79 - 12 May 2021

Are we making cities inaccessible?

Nearly 400,000 people die prematurely each year due to excessive concentrations of air pollutants in the WHO European Region. In 2013, the European Commission estimated the cost of the health impacts of pollution to be between €330 and €940 billion per year. While air pollution has a variety of sources, human activities (industry, agriculture, heating, transportation...) remain the main contributors to these emissions.

To tackle air pollution, many local authorities have chosen to implement measures to control and restrict road mobility. Low Emission Zones (LEZs) are one of these tools, deployed by European cities since the 1990s, at a time when the European Union is urging States to adopt concrete measures against pollution. In France, these LEZs are enshrined in the 2019 loi d'orientation des mobilités (LOM). There are about fifteen of them on the national territory.

While restricting the circulation of the most polluting vehicles seems to be an effective measure to reduce nitrogen oxide and fine particle emissions, it creates new constraints on the mobility of urban dwellers. These constraints can have serious consequences for residents and businesses that have no alternative to motorized vehicles and cannot acquire a less polluting means of transport. In this respect, the introduction of an LEZ can be seen as reinforcing social, economic and territorial inequalities.

To what extent do traffic restrictions pose a risk to the accessibility of cities? How do LEZs affect the movement of goods and people in cities? How can we reconcile the imperative of improving air quality with the reduction of social and territorial inequalities?

→ The note published by La Fabrique de la Cité and the presentation of its conclusions by Camille Combe (in French), project manager, examine the means of reconciling the fight against automobile pollution and the reduction of inequalities.

No time to read? La Fabrique de la Cité has got you covered.


THE BATTLE OF THE ANCIENTS AND THE MODERNS: DOES IT HAVE TO HAPPEN?  –  The projects of the Chinese architect Wang Shu demonstrates the opposite. New constructions that reuse materials from destroyed houses, renovation and modernisation of old buildings, taking into account the existing and the importance in Chinese culture of the link with nature... Bridges between the past and the future, these projects succeed in constituting the heritage of tomorrow by creating living spaces that respond to social expectations and contemporary challenges, including that of sustainability and reuse, with the guiding principle of "suiting one's measures to local conditions". – Chloë Voisin-Bormuth, Director of Research


WORLD TOURThe retreat from major cities has been the pandemic’s big real-estate story. Even if rents are where the Covid-19 effect is most obvious, that doesn’t mean metropolitan house prices have suddenly decreased: here's a look at what's happened in key cities from Sydney to London to New York. – Yamina Saydi, Communications Officer


THE VIRTUES OF SELF-ORGANISATION A comparative study of sports practice among adolescents in France and the United Kingdom shows that self-organised practice plays a greater role in reducing social and gender inequalities than organised practice. This result shows the interest that local authorities should have in designing their public space in such a way as to encourage physical activity: this is a major public health issue, but also one of social inclusion. –  Chloë Voisin-Bormuth

→ Related: for a more detailed analysis of design options for physical activity-friendly public space, see our report "The future of public spaces: physical activity".


THE SPONGE CITY To solve the frequent problems of urban flooding, China has put forward a new urban strategy: the Sponge City. Sponge City uses permeable asphalt concrete, permeable cement concrete, permeable brick, and novel permeable materials which can adapt to the changes of rainwater like a sponge, so as to reduce the occurrence of flood problems. This strategy appears to be a very relevant way to combat environmental issues such as purification of water and air or noise reduction. –  Émilie Li, intern


Recent publications