Who could do without his car? Six charts to analyze our daily journeys

To limit greenhouse gas emissions, we will need to drive less often, less fast, and for less time. In France, private cars account for up to 54% of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, a third of the national carbon footprint.

How to reduce car dependence? Not everyone carries their entire family or Norman wardrobe on every trip. But not everyone can exchange their car for a bus, bicycle or sports shoes.

Six charts to understand the current challenges of French mobility, what and how it can change:

  • Very constant travel time, ever increasing distance

According to the work of Aurélien Bigot, an assistant researcher in the Department of Energy and Welfare at the Louis-Bachelier Institute and author of a thesis on decarbonization, the French make three trips a day, on average, for about an hour. Traffic volume by 2050. This daily average, expressed in minutes per day, has been remarkably stable over two centuries, while distance traveled has increased with the mass adoption of the automobile since the 1950s, and to a lesser degree thereafter. airplane; In 2019, the average distance is over ten kilometers per day and over 50 kilometers per person.

In XXIe The rise of the car in the 20th century crushed the rest of mobility, reaching two-thirds of daily trips in 2019: “This advantage of road modes is to the detriment of active modes, while public transport is mainly resisted in large cities and for long-distance journeys”explains the researcher and expert on the transport energy transition.

Variation of distances traveled by mode of transport

This graph presents an estimate of the evolution of the average distance traveled per person and per day in France from 1819 to 2019.

  • 74% of household chores by car, and 52% less than 2 kilometers

In France, particularly long journeys between home and work (one hour and twenty-three minutes for commuter workers) are best documented. According to the latest data from INSEE, 74% of the 24.6 million workers who went to work in 2017 used their car (i.e. 18.1 million people), 16% used public transport, 6% walked and 2 % rode a bicycle.

Among the surprising results, the car is used for 52.9% of journeys, including trips of less than 2 kilometers (ie less than twenty minutes on foot or less than five minutes by bike) – where 1.95 million people are affected. For the same distance, 30.6% of French people use their feet (1.13 million) and 5% use a bicycle (185,000 people).

33% of home work trips are less than 5 km

This graph shows the proportions of different types of transport according to the distance from home to work. Reading: 56.3% of people who travel 1-2 km to work do so by car.

  • 90% use of cars in rural areas

If the car as a whole crushes all other modes of transportation to work, we see clear differences by the size of cities. Car use is massive in small and medium-sized municipalities, including “central municipalities”, as it is close to 70%, and up to 90% in “crown” municipalities (outside). INSEE writes. In “Centers” the use of public transport reaches the highest level, 14%, 13.5% of the population prefers cycling and walking; in remote areas, these figures drop to 1.9% for public transport and 7.2% for “soft modes” (walking and cycling).

90% of working people use their car to get to work due to longer distances and less public transport once one leaves the “urban gravity zones”.

  • A specific example of Paris and its region

The picture is very different for Paris, Ile-de-France, as well as some large densely populated cities with good public transport. The car takes up less space on the commute – the announcement of a planned “RER network” in France’s ten largest cities could reinforce these results.

  • 43% of drivers could walk or cycle

The center of urban areas is more convenient for modal shift, i.e. switching from one mode of transport to another. According to the Territorial Observatory, “9% of motorized trips can be made on foot, and less than half (43%) can be made by bicycle”by residents of the “central communes” of urban areas.

Among residents of the suburbs, the figures are slightly lower, although they remain high, as they reach a third of trips that can be made by walking (6%) or by bicycle (28%).

More than one-third theoretical modal shift everywhere

This graph shows the proportion of non-car journeys that can be made by location and housing type. Reading: In suburban areas outside Île-de-France, 36% of car journeys can be made by bicycle and 8.8% by foot..

Modal switch:



The observatory finds that this theoretical calculation is done by analyzing individuals’ journeys of less than one kilometer, for modal shift towards walking, or between one and four kilometers for cycling, regardless of health status. , public facilities (sidewalks), bike paths, bike parks, etc.), terrain or sequences of movements. It is about showing that there is more “reserve” significant modal shift towards non-polluting transport, especially in urban centres; “exactly where the obstacles to their implementation are the least”.

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