Greening of Gavins post on zero footprint week and transport reminded me of this article in the UKs Independent Weekly, last year. When i read it i fair swooned. call me naive, idelaistic, too romantic, commonsense-less, whatever, but i just fell in love with the idea.
More than 70 French towns have already gone back to the future by introducing horse-drawn carriages to replace petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles for local tasks such as collecting rubbish, street-cleaning and taking children to school. And at least 30 more are set to join the revolution next year.
The revival of horse-power is being pushed by the French National Stud – that's not David Ginola or even President Nicolas Sarkozy, but an organisation set up four centuries ago by "the Sun King", Louis XIV, to supply horses for his military campaigns.Last week, it told France's annual conference of mayors that gee-gees were "a serious alternative" to the gas-guzzler as municipalities seek to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming.
Children in the flower-bedecked tourist town of St-Pierre-sur-Dives, in Normandy's Calvados country, are being ferried to school in picturesque carriages rather than school buses.
Thirty-five miles away, the seaside resort of Trouville is using horse-drawn carts to pick up glass bottles for recycling. And they have been used in the same way, as well as for carrying water tanks to clean the streets, around Beauvais airport, 55 miles north of Paris.The National Stud even brought along a sample carriage – called the hippoville – to show the mayors. It has disc brakes, signal lamps and removable seats and prices start at a remarkably precise €11,562 (that's around £8,270 or, as it points out, the cost of about 170 barrels of crude oil) for the most basic model.
Critics counter that the horse – which produces around 20 kilos of dung daily, enough to fill a suitcase – is hardly pollution-free. They point out that, before the advent of the car, environmentalists were seriously worried that a proliferation of horses would leave cities knee-deep in merde and that New York had grave difficulty in disposing of some 12,000 equine carcasses a year.
But Stephane de Veyrac of the National Stud was undaunted. "It's about sustainable development and bringing some humanity back to today's monotonous machine-driven jobs," he said.Oliver Linot of the Regional Horse Promotion Commission – which holds an annual convention in Trouville to advocate the use of horse-drawn carriages – agreed. He said that our four-legged friends can also reduce stress and increase job satisfaction. "It's great for workers and the community to have contact with a living thing," he said. He even thought the beasts could reduce the civil servant strikes currently crippling the nation. "If they had their hands on a horse, they'd be happier," he insists. "I've never seen a driver kiss his truck."
The context of cobbled streets in rural France filled with boulangerie and french native speakers may have helped somewhat, but its a great idea. Its SLOW, its sustainable, its everything you want it to be. I live in a village, i wonder if our mayor would agree? might get my very active council minded husband onto this one! ha! He got solar for our local library, maybe we could get a horse and cart for the school...? Im not sure if its just been a card carrying Francophile ( not sure if thats genetic or just pathetic)but french country life, even 'a piece' in Paris, really appeals and i think after our circumnavigation adventure we may just have to give that dream a go.
*picture was taken one morning in Rocheford En-Terre, France on our daily patisserie search. He was seriously impressive on that huge horse; tweed coat and cap, necktie, boots and beard.