"Here, the car is essential"

According to you, on the scale of a small town, the challenge is to ensure that the metropolises do not function as "suction pumps" and do not accelerate desertification.

"Here, the car is essential"

According to you, on the scale of a small town, the challenge is to ensure that the metropolises do not function as "suction pumps" and do not accelerate desertification. Why is the question of mobility crucial then?

Hervé Novelli This is a real subject for which I fought a lot. Richelieu [Editor's note: Indre-et-Loire] is fifty minutes from Tours and Touraine is certainly one of the most unbalanced departments in France, since the Touraine metropolis brings together two-thirds of jobs and businesses. However, the current motorway exit is at Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, twenty minutes from Richelieu. Until then, when we left the highway, we passed through different villages.

The challenge was to develop a 15-kilometre departmental road that would bypass them, to save time and bring Richelieu closer to this axis, synonymous with development. The objective was to develop the attractiveness of the town, particularly from an economic point of view. It took me fifteen years. If this had all its acuity originally, digital - with the possibility of working far from metropolises - has nevertheless come to shake things up a bit. The fact remains that the Internet allows you to "connect", but not to move...

However, some advocate the abolition of the individual car...

This is the problem of discourse outside of all reality, but to which we must provide answers. At Richelieu, the road is important in the sense that the first station is quite far. It takes forty-five minutes to reach the TGV station of Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, near Tours, and twenty-five minutes for the TER station of Noyant-de-Touraine which is limited from a point of view frequency. The car is therefore essential and it is there where one realizes very concretely the life of these remote territories. We can have endless discussions on the usefulness of reducing CO2 emissions...

All this is intellectually true, but in Richelieu, it is clear that everyone has a car because it is the existing element of mobility: there are no buses or coaches leaving the city. This is a key element in understanding why everyone was a yellow vest in the town, in this revolt against a tax system that mainly affects people in these outlying areas who only have cars to get around. It is a clash between the economic reality as it is lived on the territory and the ecological will.

Precisely, what solutions have you provided?

Tests of buses or shuttles have been carried out. Collections are taking place. These are private initiatives but they are very ad hoc and mainly linked to the obligation to go shopping. For the rest, it's complicated... On the other hand, what has developed considerably is park and ride.

Thanks to digital technology, carpooling has been organised. That works well. There has really been an awareness for a few years of its benefits. Many people who work in the agglomeration and who live in this part of southern Touraine have organized themselves in a very concrete and very practical way. This makes it possible to drastically reduce the gasoline budget of families and demonstrates that there are responses to the rise in fuel prices. And then, when there are four of you in a car, that's three fewer cars on the course...

On this environmental aspect, you have also developed a greenway. What are the results ?

I built it in a desire to compensate for the decommissioning of the railway structuring the crossing from Richelieu to Chinon, which was rusting and which was perceived as a wart. If the vocation was originally tourist, to my surprise, it was also used by the inhabitants to go by bike to Chinon, for professional, school or food reasons... Mobility has developed soft, reassuring and useful for the inhabitants of the territory. All the small villages along these 17 kilometers appropriate it. According to the latest tallies, 15,000 people use it.

Since the pandemic, you also see a certain dynamism with the arrival of new inhabitants. What are the benefits for the community?

I have never seen such flow. Many CSPs organize a new life, half-professional, half-fun. Result: there are no longer any real estate vacancies, which we had not seen for twenty years. This new clientele is also reinvigorating our businesses, including the short circuits that have been set up and direct sales at the property.

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