Nantes has embarked on an impressive journey. They rocked onto the Copenhagenize Index in 2013 because of clear political will and investment in infrastructure and facilities. They are maintaining that, although they slip one place on the 2015 Index. We're impressed by the efforts from the City and the diversity of projects they have implemented. Not just infrastructure but services, and a clear collaboration with local associations. The City is also dedicated to traffic calming, which only serves to make cycling a more attractive option. The main boulevard is now virtually car-free for through traffic and the City has added a demonstrative cycle track down the middle. It's certainly not anywhere near Best Practice, but the iconic value is important. It is clear that the City is putting money where its mouth is. While scores of other cities around the world are content with baby steps like putting in one cycle track on one street, Nantes is going all in. They understand not just the necessity of modernising their transport for rising urbanization but also the branding value of being a city who is changing fast for the future. They are chasing Strasbourg and competing with Bordeaux for becoming France's best city for cycling. Momentum provides a tailwind.
Nantes is unique among French cities in showing what is possible with political will and a desire for change. It is certainly unique in western France and has few peers in the region. Paris to the east and Bordeaux to the south are competitors but the race is even.
Nantes will not increase their modal share further without a commitment to Best Practice infrastructure. They get so many things right apart from this. French planners and traffic engineers are simply not equipped to plan for cycling and, like many large countries, they are reluctant to seek inspiration across borders. Cycling in Nantes is confusing and not very intuitive. There are a variety of infrastructure designs that don't match and when the city decides to seek uniformity will they advance further down the bicycle urbanism superhighway. A clear hierarchy between traffic users is needed city-wide and bi-directional cycle tracks only serve to make things confusing for all citizens. The city needs to make the bicycle the fastest transport form from A to B - they're not quite there yet - and only then will they harvest the fruit.