France still has its attractive city centers and enchanting small towns. But popping up in between are sprawling suburbs that in some cases are even spawning ‘exurbs.’ Will the French countryside eventually be swallowed up by subdivisions?
PARIS -- The popular image of France is painted with the bright lights of Paris and the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux. But the creeping trend in how French people actually live is looking more and more like the American picture of identical suburban subdivisions.
In France, 95% of the population is now connected in one way or another to an urban center. And rather than growth within the major cities, it is the spread of development of the surrounding areas. Buildings are blooming in the middle of fields. New housing projects are rising ever further from the city centers where the residents work. These suburbs of suburbs, or ‘exurbs' as they're sometimes called, are expanding faster than any other residential area in France, and now cover more than 28.6% of the country, according to a recent French study.
As a result, commute times are increasing. The average French person now lives 15 kilometers from his or her place of employment. Although the largest cities have good public transportation, elsewhere the car dominates ever more as the primary mode of transportation.
"We are following the American model of urban sprawl, which presents a problem for municipalities," says Jean-Loup Msika, an urban planner who opposes this kind of "horizontal" development. "It is much more expensive to bring services to far-off areas that are not densely populated."
Nevertheless, the trend shows no sign of slowing down. It may even reshape France's social map. On one side are the large metropolitan areas. On the other, the exurbs, where a large number of the lower classes now live.
Read the full story in French by Cécilia Gabizon
Photo - Google Street View
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