Lyon workshop takeaways : interview with Paul Lecroart by Lise Petersen © Urbalyon
From Expressways to Boulevards
Converting Highways, Rethinking Cities and Regions
Since March 2020, METREX, the Network of European Metropolitan Regions and Areas, has launched the From Roads to Streets Expert Group as a platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience on the conversion of urban highways into city streets as a key measure to transform metropolitan cities and regions.
As the lead partner of this METREX Group, L’Institut Paris Region, the metropolitan region’s Planning & Environmental Agency, works with partners such as EUROCITIES Regeneration on the City Fringe, URBACT RiConnect, and The Future Design of Streets networks. To this day, over twenty European cities and regions have taken part in the From Roads to Streets learning platform through online meetings and physical workshops (see below).
Until 2023, six From Roads-to-Streets Transformation experiences have been published, providing unique insights into the processes of adapting grey infrastructure to the social and environmental needs for today and the future (all reports downloadable below):
- Helsinki’s City Boulevard Strategy and Projects
- Oslo: Rethinking City Fringe Highways in Hovinbyen
- Lyon: Regaining the Waterfront. M6/M7 Highway Transformation
- Brussels: From Expressways to Avenues. Delta-Herrmann-Debroux
- Barcelona : Metropolitan Avenues. C-245 Road & Meridiana Projects
- Warsaw: Green Streets? Jana Paula Avenue
An international workshop about the future of the riverbanks highway in Lyon was held in August 2021 with a joint METREX-EUROCITIES conference in October 2021. Since then, four workshops on highway-to-boulevard transformation, urban intensification and green street design have taken place in Brussels (March 2022), Vilnius (June 2022), Amsterdam (October 2022), and Prague (May 2023). The next workshop is planned in Düsseldorf next October.
The METREX Expert Group also took part in the World Urban Forum in Katowice in June 2022, in the URBACT RiConnect final event in Barcelona in July 2022, and in the Future Design of Streets Seminar in Porto in November 2022 (material below).
Work will continue in 2023-2024 bringing together experts, practitioners, and academics from different horizons. A final Manifesto and White Paper on Road-to-Street Transformation as a key component of sustainable development policies for livable, just, and resilient cities and regions will be prepared to support a final international conference planned for Spring 2024.
The METREX "From Roads to Streets" joint learning platform
This METREX “From Roads to Streets” expert group led by L'Institut Paris Region works in close cooperation and support of the EUROCITIES “Urban Regeneration in the City Fringe” working group set up in April 2020 with seven participating cities: Amsterdam, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Lyon, Prague, Vilnius, and Oslo as the lead partner. This group works on the conditions and methods for transforming urban fringes in three directions: overcoming highway barriers, creating quality public spaces, and managing radical land-use mix.
METREX is also collaborating with The Future Design of Streets network based in Porto which explores new ideas, tools and ways for street spaces, bringing together experiences and knowledge from practitioners from different background and cities.
Both METREX and EUROCITIES groups collaborated until the end of the programme in September 2022 with the URBACT "RiConnect" action planning network, with eight metropolitan authorities and transport agencies in the Porto Metropolitan Area, Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Region, Krakow Region, Thessaloniki, Amsterdam, Grand Paris, Greater Manchester, with Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) as the lead partner. RiConnect is about rethinking mobility infrastructure in combination with metropolitan and local planning, with the aim to reconnect people, neighbourhoods, cities, and natural spaces.
In 2020, the three networks joined forces to build up knowledge and expertise on these complex issues, with the aim to strengthen strategic and creative planning capacities within each city and region, including the Paris Region. The joint reflection of the networks also aims at raising awareness of EU and national levels on the social and environmental impacts of car-oriented infrastructure policies, with the need to shift funding streams towards converting urban expressways into green boulevards as a pathway towards compact, carbon neutral, resilient, and socially-sustainable city-regions.
#10 April 2023: The Future Design of Streets Webinars: Big Streets!
#9 November 2022: The Future Design of Streets Conference, Porto
#8 July 2022: Walk’n’Roll/URBACT RiConnect Final Events, Barcelona
#7 March-April 2022: Roads to Metropolitan Avenues, Brussels's Event
#6 October 7-8, 2021
#4 January 19, 2021
#5 August 25-26-27, 2021
#3 October 1st, 2020
#1 March 30, 2020
#2 July 1st, 2020
Learning from international experience
In the last decades, many cities –including Portland, New York, or Seoul– successfully removed or transformed stretches of urban highways, replacing them with multi-use boulevards lined with mixed-use new developments, or new linear parks. In order to understand the rationale, impacts and conditions for success, L'Institut Paris Region initiated in 2010 a long-term research programme on Metropolitan Avenues. The purpose was to inform ongoing projects and reflections in the Paris Region. As part of the programme, L’Institut examined some twenty highway-to-boulevard experiences on three continents (America, Asia and Europe). Of these, nine cases were studied in depth on-site, with their reports published first in French between 2012 and 2016.
The most significative result from this research is that these strategic metropolitan projects are complex and conflictual, but have long-term positive impacts on traffic and mobility, city regeneration, and the quality of the urban environment, often far beyond the project boundaries (see article: Reinventing Cities: From Urban Highway to Living Space - Urban Design issue 147).
This research has influenced projects in France, including the Paris Region Masterplan (2013), the Paris Seine Banks pedestrianisation (2016), as well as the ongoing reflections on the future of the Paris Périphérique and the region’s highways –with the International Competition on the Future of Grand Paris’s Highways as a first step in 2018.
Case studies published in French
Paul Lecroart is a Senior Urbanist for the Paris Metropolitan Region Planning Agency, advising regional & city authorities on strategic planning and transformative projects, both in France and internationally. Paul currently steers the Metropolitan Avenues programme on highway transformation in the Grand Paris and chairs the METREX ‘From Roads to Streets’ Expert Group. He has been a member of the International Advisory Board for the 4th New York Regional Plan as well as a Coordinator for Metropolis, the global network of cities. He teaches strategic and tactical planning at Sciences Po Urban School, Paris, and has contributed to many books, films and research publications, including ‘Cities Change the Word’ published in December 2019.
Special thanks to Henk Bouwman, Stephan Gallagher (METREX), Pernille Grimeland Røsvik (Oslo/EUROCITIES), Odile Pagani, Olivier Roussel, Sébastien Rolland, Claire Boisset, Juan Castro (Urbalyon/Grand Lyon), Joan Caba Roset (Barcelona/URBACT), Daniel Casas Valle (Porto/Urban Dynamics), Frédéric Héran (Paris/Université de Lille), Sonia Lavadinho (Geneva/Bfluid), Niklas Aalto-Setälä (Helsinki), Milene Deneubourg (Brussels), and all network participants for their contribution to this work.