The scientific objective of the proposed study is to take stock and evaluate the development prospects for retail-related journeys towards town centres using non-motorised transport modes (walking, cycling and possibly rollerblading) or combinations of transport modes (e.g. walking + public transport), depending on the types of purchase and clientele concerned. In practical terms, the aim is also to produce a list of suggestions resulting from innovative retail experiences in France and nearby countries (e.g. Italy, the Netherlands) on how to encourage the non-motorised patronage of city-centre shops.
This work is based on surveys carried out in a number of French cities, including Montpellier, Brest, Strasbourg, Nantes and Grenoble. Those surveyed include retailers, urban planners, and customers that use sustainable transport modes (cycling, rollerblading).
As a general rule, retailers assume that most pedestrians arrive in the city centre by car, with public transport very much in second place. Cycling and rollerblading are mentioned only anecdotally. Nonetheless, our study would suggest that the prospects for the development of access to centrally located shops using non-motorised means (alone or combined with public transport) are very positive, for three reasons: • The purchase of non-bulky items, acquired in small quantities, does not generally require special transport conditions. Indeed, as many city-centre shops are oriented towards high-quality and/or more unusual products and services, they are predisposed to access using sustainable transport modes. • The major obstacle to non-motorised access to city-centre shops lies essentially in the intrinsic limitations of non-motorised transport, which come under the responsibility of public authorities. • Examples studied in other countries exhibit greater degrees of integration of sustainable transport into commercial activities, as in Italy, where making journeys by bicycle is seen as a form of civility that is recognised and actively encouraged by public authorities. In view of municipal leaders' current awareness of, and commitments to, non-motorised and combined accessibility, major changes in user behaviour are likely to happen sooner rather than later. The recommendations of the study concern: - better consultation between public authorities and retail professionals, in order to ensure that both the urban and commercial characteristics of city-centre areas are considered as one; - wider acceptance of the concept of customers who are both city-dwellers and good citizens: the consumer (in the eyes of the retailer) and the road user or public-transport user (in the eyes of the transport manager) is one and the same person – and a person who has many suggestions to make. Furthermore, behind this "dual personality", there are many other facets that go deeper still, notably that of the city-dweller who makes use of the urban facilities on offer and who is attentive – including while travelling – to the quality of city life, the quality of shops available, and the level of coherence between these two elements, assessed according to his or her personal values.