Grenoble replaces billboards with trees

A historic decision by Grenoble, in France: 50 new trees were planted, replacing billboards. “An ecological and ethical choice,” the mayor says.

No more billboards in the city. They’ll be replaced by planting new trees. This is what’s happening in the French city of Grenoble, where mayor Eric Piolle kept one of the promises he had made during the campaign that made him leader of the Isère region’s capital.

Grenoble eliminates 300 adverts to make space for nature

The mayor won the election as a member of the EELV green party (Europe Ecologie les Verts) supported by a left-wing coalition in 2014 thanks to a new project for his city which included the slogan “Trees instead of billboards”, as reported by Euronews. In practical terms, Piolle decided not to renew the contract with the company JDC Decaux, who owned the rights for advertisements on 300 billboards. Therefore, these were slowly eliminated.

Grenoble panorama
The city of Grenoble, with the Bastille in the background © Andrea Barolini

50 trees were planted instead of the bulky billboards. At the time, JCD Decaux declared that this choice would have cost the city 600,000 euros per year (according to the municipality, this figure was closer to 150,000). But the choice made by the red-green council was dictated by other priorities, beyond purely economic ones.

An ethical as well as ecological matter

“We’re convinced that the city is ‘created’ in public spaces,” Piolle explained. “Eliminating advertisements means giving these spaces back to the community. But it’s also our contribution to the process of surpassing the model based on consumerist society, which doesn’t hold the keys to humanity or the planet’s future. Children cross these streets when they go to school: we must think about their education,” he told us in an interview.

This is how Grenoble became the first European city to ban billboards from city streets. The only ones that remain today are next to tram and bus stops. In some cases, they’ve been replaced by boards with information on the activities carried out by the administration or advertisements for exhibitions, shows and cultural events. The mayor often repeats that, “this was an ethical choice”.

The French mayor’s “transformation of ideas” vision

This isn’t the only project developed by the new administration to make the city more sustainable. “We’ve started a transformation of ideas. Starting from very concrete choices, like incentivising a deep change in the way urban mobility is conceived – Piolle continues –. The result was a 10 per cent increase in the use of bicycles during the first year and 20 per cent during the second one”.

eric piolle grenoble verdi
Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle explained that he aims to transform the relationship that connects people to the city © Andrea Barolini

Grenoble was also the first city to launch a rental service in collaboration with Toyota for the three wheeled electrical vehicles manufactured by the Japanese company. All adults can now register to the service defined as “personal mobility vehicles” by Toyota, thanks to 27 stations and 120 charging points.

Featured image © Iilka Siissalo

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