Grégory Doucet: “The important thing is the physical transformation of Lyon”

Le Point: At the start of the school year, what state of mind are you in?</p>Grégory Doucet: I am approaching this start of the school year with enthusiasm because Covid-19 is behind us and the preparation of major projects is complete

Grégory Doucet: “The important thing is the physical transformation of Lyon”

Le Point: At the start of the school year, what state of mind are you in?

Grégory Doucet: I am approaching this start of the school year with enthusiasm because Covid-19 is behind us and the preparation of major projects is complete. These are being deployed throughout the city and I am happy about it. During the first part of the mandate, projects were launched but they were more isolated. The global transformation of Lyon is underway, and it shows.

What is your assessment of these first three years at the head of the city?

Children's Lyon is one of the great advances. Today, the 15,000 children in nursery and primary school benefit from facilities around the establishments. This is either pedestrianization, as in front of the Léon-Jouhaux school in the 3rd arrondissement, or a slowdown in traffic as in the 8th, in front of Pierre-Termier, where there have been 3,000 to 300 vehicles per day. The greening of schoolyards and nurseries is also an important change. Studies show that beyond its calming properties, a natural environment facilitates learning. The establishment of children's district councils is also a good thing, because it allows them to become familiar with the notions of citizenship and commitment. Building a children's city is therefore a subject that is particularly close to my heart.

Is the children's Lyon your greatest pride?

What makes me proud, generally speaking, is to have engaged the city in a significant transformation process. Adaptation to new climatic conditions is underway. Lyon had certainly fallen behind in this area, we are in the process of catching up and even going beyond. You won't often hear me cite a government member who testifies to the city's positive action, but when Christophe Béchu came on August 21, he said that Lyon was leading the way and its transition was exemplary. Lyon has initiated a very ambitious greening plan. This is 140 million euros for the mandate: the city has already regained three hectares of land. Until 2020, bitumen was nibbling away. We stopped artificialization. When we sign a building permit, we work with the project leaders, the developers, so that, as far as possible, the new constructions bring in more land. Of the three hectares regained, almost two were recovered by working at the time the building permits were granted. The remaining hectare was taken from public space, either on mineralized spaces or on parking spaces. This demonstrates that it is possible to regain ground surface to plant trees which will provide shade.

The city remains very mineral, and there is no flagship place that would bear witness to the ongoing vegetation…

Three hectares is not nothing. Is this enough? Certainly not. I mentioned the 140 million euros that will be invested during the mandate: they have not been completely spent. We still have three years to continue revegetating. The redevelopment project for the right bank of the Rhône will save us three additional hectares. Certainly, we are not going to create an 80-hectare park in the city. But we are going to create natural spaces here and there.

You promised urban forests…

One of them will see the light of day in front of Part-Dieu as soon as the site is vacated. Afforestation will begin before the end of the term. It is also planned to create a park near EM Lyon, covering more than one hectare. Wherever possible, we plant.

And will Place Bellecour be green?

Studies are underway. During this term, we will carry out the first adjustments. The most important ones will wait until the next term because we are in the presence of a constrained space, where two metros and many networks pass underground. Not forgetting the underground parking. Unless parking spaces are blocked, today we cannot plant.

Hence the need to serve a second term…

Every time I am asked this question, I answer yes. But we will still say: “How clever is the mayor…” I was elected to transform the city: I am looking forward to the long term. Essential projects such as Lyon, a climate-neutral city in 2030, do not have the upcoming electoral deadline as a horizon. What is important is the physical transformation of the city that we are currently carrying out, as well as the transformation of lifestyles and habits. When it comes to mobility, it's significant: the use of bicycles in the city has increased by 50% since 2020, that of public transport by 10%, while that of the car has decreased by 10%. Things change but it takes time. I wanted to go into politics to take concrete action, both for people's lives, but also for my city.

Do you plan to speed up construction? Can you afford it?

What does it mean to speed up? If tomorrow, with the wave of a magic wand, I could create Children's Streets in front of all the schools and green all the playgrounds, I would do it... It is also at the national level that we must act and invest massively, particularly on mobility. I campaign for the development of river transport. In Lyon, we have an ideal tool: a port whose activity could be greater if the connection with the port of Marseille was better.

This is also what the President of the Republic wants, who said that we needed a “major port that goes from Marseille to Lyon”…

What we need is action. River transport is a means of massively decarbonizing transport. Our port being connected to the rail network, we could at the same time develop rail transport. But this requires investment.

You finally chose to increase taxes this fall. Many people blame you for this while inflation is hitting the French hard…

One of the responses to growing inequalities is to provide a quality public service. With my executive, we judged that since Lyon is one of the cities that taxes the least, we could increase the tax rate in order to continue investing, but also to offer Lyon residents more public services on a daily basis. Public service is for everyone: it is the heritage of those who have none. Planted schools, better insulated, with more thermal comfort, come at a cost.

At the start of your mandate, you were more of a national logic, you wanted to show that environmentalists were capable of changing things. Today, you seem to be refocusing on your role as mayor…

Being mayor of Lyon has always been my priority. That some might have interpreted things differently saddens me. It is obvious that what happens in Lyon is watched at a national level. Due to its size and the acceleration of its transformation, it is an emblematic city.

We saw you take the sword against the government…

I don't see what could have given you this impression.

Your exchange of arms with the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, on security issues.

When I consider that Lyon is attacked, I defend it. I also stepped up to the plate when Laurent Wauquiez targeted our cultural institutions. I do not want some people, for reasons of political cooking or personal ambition, to act against the general interest of the people of Lyon. This may sound like I’m stepping into the national ring.

Did the bad poll in February affect you?

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that it left me indifferent. When you read something that concerns you, you pay attention to it. Afterwards, there were two polls: one was good, the other was not. What matters to me is transforming the city. Are the Lyonnais satisfied? In any case, they asked this of us when they elected us. If they want it to stop, they will.