They shine in mid-morning light
And reflect all the convergences of Lyon,
All the meetings, all the transformations.
World Heritage site and modern city,
Birthplace of film and a centre of silk,
And a tablecloth’s unfurled in a restaurant
For the convergence of eater and lunch.
There’s old town and new thinking,
And last time I was in Lyon I had a dream
Of a silk tablecloth held up in the clear air,
And someone was projecting a film on it,
A film of a great city, a meeting of rivers,
A convergence of ideas reflected in water.
Ian McMillan, Poet-in-Residence
Success of major-scale developments
Invest in high-quality public realm and green space
Commitment to public transport
Use of culture as a USP
There is a long tradition of stability in the city, which was thought to be a positive by-product of long-standing cooperation at a Greater Lyon level. It was stated that Lyon was the only city in France that was able to maintain such a consistency in urban vision throughout repeated changes in political control. The Urban Agency for Lyon (’Grand Lyon’) was one of several established across major cities in France in the 1980s, and is 100% publicly funded. Their role is to advise the elected politicians, most notably the Mayor, on city infrastructure, public housing and cultural facilities, although the Agency is bound to deliver the policy and strategy set down by the Mayor, regardless of their views. It exerts strong leadership on all aspects of city regeneration and urbanism. The Agency has to work with 37 separate public agencies, plus arondissements (including 9 in Lyon itself) and communes, giving rise to a complicated mix of multiple layers of public bureaucracy.
The Agency sees it has a key role in coordinating this, and seeks to so this via collective consensus. The city’s role as the regional capital further enhances its status and ability to do this. An example of the metropolitan level of cooperation is that the main municipalities in the Rhône-Alps region have now agreed to develop complementary industries and economic specialisms rather than compete directly with one another.
Lyon has made a concerted effort over the past 10 years to enhance and develop new and existing green and public spaces within the city to counter urban heat island issues, health issues relating to pollution, and provide greater socio-cultural benefit for densely-developed adjacent resident communities. The city is one of the few which has increased budgets for open leisure space despite current financial constraints in recognition of the long-term savings this should produce in terms of citizens’ health. In addition, there has been considerable investment in an extensive and efficient public transport network in the city over the past 15 years, notably in a new network of city trams and high-speed dedicated airport link, plus public realm enhancements in all of the city’s historic areas.
Lyon has a very active programme of arts, culture and music targeting a wide range of audiences, which gives the city a dynamic vibrancy and acts as a major draw for visitors from not just France but all over the world. The city’s several universities add a particularly youthful facet to the feel of many parts of the city centre. There is also considerable investment in leisure and sports and encouraging healthy lifestyle from the very heart of the city longitudinally out into the adjacent countryside: this augments the sense of a dynamic, bustling, constantly moving place. City pride is evidenced by the relative lack of graffiti, littering and vandalism in the city centre, and was echoed in conversations with local residents.
Lyon is a confident city, assured of its place in both past, present and future terms. It focuses on taking inspiration from its own history and physical attributes to create additional new facets on the city’s identity, and recognises these are all essential components that make up the whole of the city. The city aims to be a European economic centre, focusing on leadership in the areas of biotechnology, environmental chemicals, urban transport and digital industries. It wishes to promote closer linkages and practical cooperation between industry and academia, and propel the University of Lyon into the top 30 European universities. It wants to further develop its tourism potential, based on its built, cultural and gastronomic heritage. Given the city’s economic performance, the quality of the city’s investments in projects such as La Confluence and Part Dieu is clearly adding to the confidence of the private sector in Lyon as an investment destination, whilst simultaneously creating high quality public realm, cultural facilities and commercial space to city.
Major challenges still lie ahead in changing culturally-engrained modal use patterns away from private vehicles to public transport/walking, and dealing with major highway infrastructure in the heart of the city. There is a need to further promote actions on long-term environmental and sustainability issues across all communities, including residents. There is also the need to make progress on pressing long-term problems around unemployment in the outlying banlieue, notably in the under 25s and ethnic and immigrant populations, as well as socio-economic mobility and cultural/social cohesion.