Settled in the wake of Roman conquest, the colony then known then as Lugdunum was founded by one of Julius Caesar’s officers in 43BCE. At the intersection of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, this strategically located city grew to become perhaps the most important in north-western Europe. Some of the architecture of antiquity survives until this day, including aqueducts and amphitheatres. Among many others, these historic sites of Lyons have now been designated UNESCO World Heritage status. Lyon, which did not come under French control until the 14th century, became famous for its production of silk in the Renaissance, a trend which continued into the industrial revolution. Lyon occupies a special place in cinema history, for it was there that the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière shot Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon in 1895. This 46 second documentary is often regarded as history’s first piece of film-making. The capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon itself as half a million people, yet the greater metropolitan area has around 2.2 million, making it the second largest in France, after Paris. It currently has a vibrant economy and is internationally famous for its gastronomic excellence.
Partway between the temperate oceanic climates of northern France and the warmer Mediterranean clime of south, Lyon seems to have a mix of both. It has an average summer high/low of 27/16°C in July, and a winter high/low average of 6.4/0.3°C in January. The city receives around 830mm of rain annually, falling over about 100 days, spread across the year. The winter months are the most dry, and the city can experience around 20 days of snow over the season.
By 2100, Lyon is expecting to have a climate similarly to that of current day Algiers. This projection brings with it justified fears of heat waves and urban heat island effects. The city has outlined it mitigation/adaptation in their 2015 Progress Report of the Territorial Climate and Energy Plan (see documents below, also this). Lyon has long been a leader in the movement of global cities taking action on climate change. To give a few examples; back in the year 2000, the city hosted an event which produced the The Declaration of the First International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change. This forum was perhaps the first of many statements issued by indigenous people on the issue of climate change. Then, in 2011 the Lyon Declaration was issued. This declaration had the telling subtitle: Of Regions and Federated States Engaged for the Climate. With the participation of the nrg4SD, ICLEI and UCLG, this declaration essentially reaffirms the pivotal role that cities and regions must play in the adapting and mitigating climate change, while also emphasizing their preference for international decentralized cooperation. Finally, the second workshop of the Climate Metropole+ initiative “Climate Change Adaptation – Strategies, Actions and Challenges” was held in Lyon on 8-9th of February 2016.
One of mayor Gérard Collomb’s achievements was the introduction of the Vélo’v bike hire scheme in 2005 (the name is a portmanteau of French word vélo [bike] and the English word love). This highly successful practice has since been emulated by Paris, London and Buenos Aires, among others. In tandem with this scheme has been the continued augmentation of the city’s already expansive public transport provision in the city. Lyon boasts a four-line Metro, two funicular lines, five tramway lines and 130 bus and trolley-bus lines that criss-cross the territory, facilitating around 1.4 million daily journeys. One of the key players of the Vélo’v scheme was Gilles Vesco, a Lyon politician with a focus on ‘new urban mobility’. This concept runs against the private car ownership model, with the alternative goal of rebalancing public space, in order to create a walkable city with less pollution, noise and stress. Many of the car parks that formerly ran alongside the banks of Lyon’s two rivers have since been removed and replaced with green human-friendly parks. Since 2005 the number of cars entering Lyon has fallen by 20 per cent, as the popularity of cycling rose threefold. Vesco is aiming policy for a further 20 per cent drop over the next decade, despite the projected 10% increase in population. The drop in private automobile traffic fed into a drop in general emissions from the city—with between the year 2000 and 2013—the city’s emissions falling by 11 percent, again, despite the 10 percent increase in population over this time.
Many of Lyon’s adaptation projects are showcased in the website Lyon Confluence. This website looks at life in general in the city where two rivers meet, including having local news, guides to moving to the city and what to do there. Nestled in amongst this are many briefly sketched details of the city’s comprehensive sustainably plans; with pages devoted to energy, water, light and wildlife, as well as architecture and guides to consume locally produced food. In this way, Lyon Confluence is notable for locating sustainability as part of everyday life, intertwining it with the lived practices of the people who inhabit the city.