On the banks of the Rhône, in Lyon, June 2, 2023. OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP
The Lyon elected officials summoned the memory of Jacques Chirac, assuring that they were going ” do better “ than the former mayor of Paris, who promised in 1977 to make swimming in the Seine possible. Bruno Bernard, the president of the metropolis of Lyon, and Grégory Doucet, the mayor of the city (both Europe Ecologie-Les Verts – EELV), announced the launch of a study for the construction of nautical basins in the beds of the Rhône and Saône, on the occasion of the presentation of their plan for the use of river banks (SURF), Tuesday 20 June. The study could be delivered by the end of this year.
If the technical data are conclusive, in particular the safety criteria, these swimming pools, integrated into the rivers, could be carried out before the end of the mandate of the two elected officials, by 2026.
Two options are possible for the construction of the sites: nets allowing the flow to pass through, or basins completely submerged in the watercourses. Three locations are envisaged: two in the Rhône – at the level of the Jonage canal and in the Confluence dock –, one in the Saône valley. “We have to make sure of all the security conditions. Currents can be strong”, tempers Thierry Guimbaud. Present in Lyon for this announcement, the director general of Voies navigables de France (VNF) clarified that this prospect may also concern Paris. The Seine could have bathing sites in the center of the capital, after the Olympic Games, during which two open water swimming events are planned.
Creation of river shuttles
A great opportunity in the face of the effects of global warming in urban areas, the creation of new swimming pools bears witness to an unprecedented reflection on the use of waterways in Lyon. For the first time, metropolitan France, town hall and VNF have set up a working group of around a hundred agents and experts, in order to define a common work plan to set up “a harmonious development of the uses of the banks of the Rhône and the Saône”. Broken down into twenty-nine proposals, this plan provides, for example, for the creation of river shuttles for passenger transport.
The first connection on the Saône must connect the districts of Vaise and Bellecour, with a fleet of four boats and a commissioning planned from the beginning of 2025. The elected officials hope for the presence of seven boats with carbon-free propulsion to ensure this river transport . Long-term objective: shuttles every quarter of an hour, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The public contract should be awarded this summer, for a total investment of 14 million euros.
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