The first thing you notice when entering Ferney-Voltaire is the colour green. Any space that has room seems to have Flowers, fruits and vegetables growing in it. It’s actually hard to see many of the buildings behind the vegetation. There are allotments all over as well as several active AMAPs. More than half of the food needed by the inhabitants of Ferney is grown in the town.
The next thing you notice is the wonderfully calm atmosphere. The city centre is not exactly off limits to cars, but the speed limit has been reduced to 20km/hr and most people in cars don’t drive around town. It’s a bit like the centre of Lucerne. There are bicycles of all types and shapes – with and without trailers for both goods and children. The velo taxi’s are great too, providing local employment and making sure everyone can get around town. The bicycle lanes have been extended throughout and both pedestrians and cyclists can move across town without ever needing to be on a road.
When it comes to housing we have had two major changes. Existing housing has been made slightly wider to fit external insulation and triple glazing, as well as mostly upgraded to solar panels. New housing is energy positive – generating more energy than it uses – and is designed with zero impact on growing space. All new buildings and many of the existing ones have green roofs where they are not suitable for solar. All parking is underground, but lit with sun-pipes during daylight to save power.
Local shopping is now based around the local economy. All shops and local tradespeople accept the local currency. We now have several local agriculture outlets (an extension of AMAPs) providing local, healthy, organic food. Similarly we have more cafés, also providing local food. Two car sharing/rental systems, a tool hire co-operative, as well as a thriving butcher, cheese shop, and bakers. The saturday market has been extended – it is now 100% bio, and 95% local and all residents have the right to sell their produce from their own gardens – being paid in the local currency of course.
La Poterie has been remade as a modern industrial zone, providing local manufacturing using local materials (like wood and clay) as well as materials from the small dechetterie/recycling centre. In addition there are several repair/re-use/up-cycling cafés, where people can bring objects to be repaired or re-used. This has provided more jobs in town, as well as teaching people all sorts of useful skills.
Local associative life is thriving. Having free wireless internet in all meeting rooms made it much easier to crowd-source innovations and speed up all sorts of projects in town – especially new arts projects. The ability to bring speakers in to conferences by Skype instead of in person, meant we could bring many more new ideas to Ferney. But overall, one of my favourite local projects is the two Party Trees in Parc de la Tire & Pace Abbé de Boisson – with a (free) booking system online at the Mairie. Anyone resident in the town can book the park area around a Tree for an outdoor party – not cleaning up after yourself simply means you will not be allowed to book again. This has significantly contributed, in summer, to the social interaction in the town.