Patrick Goldschmidt: “I have removed more than 400 parking spaces in the city since I arrived. Nobody has done as much.”
Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne
Patrick Goldschmidt (DP) the Luxembourg City alderman in charge of transport, responds to remarks made by transport minister François Bausch (Déi Gréng) to Paperjam, demanding communes make more of an effort to promote cycling.
Pierre Pailler: Transport minister François Bausch has asked communes, and in particular the City of Luxembourg, to show “political courage” regarding cycling. He has suggested removing parking spaces in the city centre to create more room. What do you think of that suggestion?
Patrick Goldschmidt: But where are there still parking spaces in the city centre? I have removed more than 400 parking spaces in the city since I arrived. Nobody has done as much.
The fact is that there are only 444 residential parking vignettes valid for the centre neighbourhood, but there are some 50,000 vignettes for the entire municipality. However, we need a hundred places in the centre, otherwise there is nothing, except the parking lot on the Glacis.
Isn’t the car “an urban relic from the last century”, as François Bausch says?
In the city we have, outside of the covid lockdown period, between 190,000 and 200,000 vehicles entering the city ever day (private cars, trucks and buses). A lot of people don’t have a choice. You can’t close the city to all cars.
There used to be three lanes for private traffic from the station to the city centre . Now there’s only one. Just like on Boulevard Royal, we’re decreasing traffic flow. We can’t have more cars; the city is saturated with private vehicle traffic.
By comparison, you only have 2,000 bicycles in town. And most people don’t shop by bike, especially at shopping malls. We’ve even had to introduce more frequent buses on Saturdays on the routes to the two Auchan shopping centres. So, I have to find solutions for all users, including buses.
So, it’s not that we don’t want to [reduce car traffic], but the equation is difficult. Now, one of our tasks is to optimise public transit.
What strategy will you employ to achieve this optimisation?
One of our demands from national policy makers is to get as many buses out of the city centre as possible, especially the RGTR [regional] buses. It is not normal for a bus coming from Metz to go in to the city centre. Passengers arriving from outside the city should switch to the urban network. So, I’m asking [policy makers at] the national level to do more. But it’s not done yet. There’s a lack of political courage…
There are also problems for cyclists. For example, now that the tram will soon be fully operational, many buses use Boulevard Prince Henri. This means there are too many buses to install a two-way bike path, as it is dangerous to mix bus lanes and cyclists. In fact, when François Bausch was the alderman in charge of mobility, they tried to find a solution, but they couldn’t…
There is a cycle path that crosses the city. What about linking that to other neighbourhoods?
It is possible to get to the city from surrounding districts by bike. In the 30km/h residential zones there is no need for cycle lanes, and on the main roads, there are bike lanes or signed paths.
But the fact is that in the neighbourhoods, people are still asking for parking spaces. So, I think it’s going to take time for the bikes to really become established. And there are also a lot of people with reduced mobility and senior citizens.
Since 2007, François Bausch has wanted a link from Cents to Kirchberg. Decisions were never made despite many meetings. When I arrived in 2018, I wanted to move forward with this project. And we took a decision. I hope that by the end of the year, it will be possible to present the project to the college of aldermen.
Is the cycling trend real?
Since our decision at the end of 2018 to switch [the Vel’oh bike hire scheme] to 100% electric--and I think that’s the future--the numbers have doubled. There were 521 daily rentals in 2018, compared to 2,100 in 2019. The number of subscribers increased from 7,768 in 2017 to 8,604 in 2018 and 16,676 in 2019.
In 2010, our cycle lane counters recorded 1,100 bikes per day, and about 2,000 in 2019. That’s a nice increase, but I’ll be happy when there are 10,000. Our role remains to encourage people to increasingly use the bike.