Urban Sprawl: is there a French case?

Abstract : The extension of urban space has been a world wide process during the last fifty years, certainly linked with the rapid diffusion of technologies, especially individual transportation modes, and with globalisation of many economic and cultural standards. A study of the French case could be taken as representative of a medium situation in Europe. The development of urban sprawl has taken in France both common and original features, which could be coined as an intermediary position of the country between Northern and Southern Europe in a kind of spatial diffusion process. This situation leads to apparent contradictions in the strength of urban expansion : France is a country where the main stage of peri-urbanisation occurred rather late, during the 70's and 80's, but the process of urban sprawl has had more impact than in Spain or even Italy for instance.France is known as a country where urbanisation started later than in other European countries and where the average density of population is still much lower than in most of Europe. Such a context and a combination of social spontaneous trends and policies and regulations have been put forward as the possible explanation of the main specific features of French urban sprawl. Several aspects as the functioning of land market, the dramatic increase of individual mobility, housing policies and land regulations also have contributed to the shaping of the urban extensions. The emergence of a new set of laws for urban governance and urban renewal at the end of the 90's attests that urban policies are now oriented towards a clearer consciousness of the physical and social consequences of urban sprawl. Specific regulation means are now available for a better control of the process.This study however challenges the global diffusion theory of urban sprawl. It would be perhaps too simple to consider that this new way of building cities and organising city life mainly consists in the adoption of a physical urban model and of urban ways of life as they were initiated in the United States of America. There are different urban traditions around the world which reacts in quite different manners to the necessity of adapting to such innovations, according to a path dependent trajectory in the evolution of such complex systems. Future urban forms in France and Europe may keep such an original path.
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Denise Pumain. Urban Sprawl: is there a French case?. Richardson H.W., Bae C.C. Urban Sprawl in Western Europe and the United States., Ashgate, pp.137-157, 2004. ⟨halshs-00000479⟩

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