Remodelling the city

The southern approach to Bordeaux is changing beyond all recognition. When we first moved here the main access road passed disused abattoirs, demolished warehouses, a municipal dump and dingy hotels. It was dead, dirty and unattractive. This didn't matter too much because you passed it on an urban freeway with a 70kph limit.

But our area of the city is part of all that and the plan is only partially accomplished. They aim to take away the urban freeway and replace it with a city boulevard, limited to 50kph, or maybe even 30kph. This will be punctuated by crossings to allow people access to the river from the offices and apartments of the newly redeveloped southern part of the city.

The quays of the Garonne, transformed from a disused dockland into a wide and airy garden promenade, will be extended down to this southern part of the city. A new bridge, the Pont Simone-Veil, will open this year, linking the southern banks of the city. It will have wide cycle paths, dedicated bus lanes, broad pedestrian areas, and will close the loop of the city's inner ring road, the boulevards A separate study is trying to work out how to bring life back to the boulevards, which once were dotted by little shopping centres with cinemas, but have been turned into mere access roads.

During this remodelling the city has tackled one of the cycling blackspot of the Bordeaux - the area where you have to get under the railway line and the roads that lead from one bank of the Garonne to the other. They've done it by converting half of the southern urban freeway into a huge cycle path. You have a very wide surface to travel. Getting onto it is a challenge, because there are still extensive roadworks at the southerly end, but once you got through those you are faced with a virtually unbroken passage along the quays right through the heart of the city.


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