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From Conflict Management to Quality of Life at Night. The First Approach of Lyon Urban Area Nights

Nicolas Chausson


For more than a decade, the urban night’s issue has gradually found its place on the agenda of French and European cities. After nights were recognized as a subject of scientific research it attracted the authorities’ interest, in the prospect of enhancing their attractiveness globally. However, despite this growing interest, urban nights are still considered as a time to regulate, conflicts being the core of the topic. Implicitly, reflecting on nights to include them in the general reflection on the development of cities appears truly difficult. To get over this conflict and consider nights from a new perspective, we propose to change attitudes and consider nights through quality of life. The latter aims to link the characteristics of the living environment with the needs and desires of the inhabitants. Therefore, we propose to place people at the heart of the research, questioning them about what structures their lives at night. Through this method, we expect to build an essential knowledge to consider nights as designed by and in favor of quality of life.

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1Time of darkness and social rest, the urban night has long been seen as a break in the overall pace of society. However, for more than a decade, things have changed. Because of the combined effects of globalization, reduction / flexibility of working time, the importance given to leisure time, the development of new communication technologies, and so on, "le temps des différentes activités humaines se chevauchent, s’interpénètrent [et] débordent leur cadre temporel" - the timing of the various human activities overlap, intermingle [and] extend beyond their time frame - (Boulin, Mückenberger: 11) which disrupts individuals synchronization. This life times and city times reorganization participates in enlivening the nights of our cities. Activities colonize this peculiar time of the city, which turns into a new time of work and leisure for an increasing number of individuals (Gwiazdzinski 2002, 2005).

2Times are changing and the pressure on urban areas is also increasing. Faced with the city polarization of the economy (Veltz 2007) and a sliding epicenter of the State's public action towards local territories (Thoening, Duran 1996), cities have gained more autonomy in defining their development strategies (Epstein 2005) and are becoming more than ever "des niveaux possibles d’organisation de la société" - potential levels of society organization - (Le Gales 2011: 52). In this context, competition between cities is increasing and it forces them to develop true differentiation strategies to strengthen their influence and attractiveness to draw wealth and people. Among the new tools raised by territories to adopt a unique urban identity, nightlife vitality is getting more and more central. It is part of what John Hannigan called Fantasy city in which the city spaces are thought and designed to meet a social demand, particularly regarding consumption, leisure, culture and entertainment (Hannigan 1998). Thus, as Justin O'Connor pointed out about urban centers in Great Britain, urban night and the twenty-four hour city concept are "des attribut-clé pour une ville qui tente de restructurer et de régénérer son centre-ville [et] un instrument de marketing séduisant pour des villes désireuses de se réinventer elles-mêmes, de demeurer ou de devenir compétitives au niveau national, européen ou global" - core attributes when undertaking to restructure and revive city centers [and] an attractive marketing tool for cities wishing to reinvent themselves to remain or become competitive at national, European or global level - (O'Connor 1997: 46).

3As a time that is being deeply reorganized, the urban night has gradually found its place on the agenda of French and European cities. The authorities indeed take actions, such as the États Généraux de la nuit in Paris (2010), Geneva (2011), Lausanne (2013) or Lille (2013) which gathered politicians, cities technical services, people working in the night business or citizens, and brought them together in debates. More recently, Paris, Toulouse and Nantes elected their unofficial night mayor, following the example of Amsterdam, to start talks with local authorities, for nights to get equal recognition in city planning.

4Despite this evolution, urban nights are still considered as a time to regulate, with conflict and conflict management at the heart of the topic. As Luc Gwiazdzinski often pointed out "la ville qui travaille, la ville qui dort et la ville qui s’amuse ne font pas toujours bon ménage" - the sleeping city, the working city and the vibrant city don’t always get on well together - (Gwiazdzinski 2005: 132) and tensions occur, for example between the need of silence of some people vs entertainment for other people or development of night activities vs protection of night workers.

5Between opportunities and tensions, this article will review urban nights, making references to Lyon urban area which crystallizes, like many other French and European cities, the briefly outlined issues. Our research starts from the core assumption that conflict is the fundamental characteristic of the urban night, making it is necessary to regulate and pacify to create the right living together conditions in urban areas. In order to step out of conflict, it seems necessary to consider nights differently and consider them from a more constructive point of view. To make this change, we propose to analyze nights through the concept of quality of life assuming that conflicts at night express conflicts between different aspirations and needs, in other words, different representations of quality of life.

6Since the early 2000’s, scientists have taken over the urban nights issue, making nights a true subject of research and thus contributing to knowing better its geography and offer, (Gwiazdzinski, 2002, 2005), its practices (Espinasse and Buhagiar 2004) or its social and economic structure (Chatterton and Hollands 2003) etc. Nonetheless, few have studied nights through quality of life. Still, improving quality of life is at the core of city times politics (Boulin and Mückenberger 2003). More generally, even if the quality of life concept is widely used to promote the city, it is little raised to analyze realities although it links individual aspirations and living environment (Barbarino-Saulnier 2005).

7We will conduct a two-step study. The first step will explain the dynamics of nights in Lyon, between night vibrancy and regulation, based on the analysis of three Lyon nights sub-systems: the evolution of representations, political speeches and public actions implemented to make nights more attractive and welcoming. Beyond these dynamics, we will develop some forecasts on nights through quality of life. The second step will develop new ways of thinking to consider nights as an urban project designed by and in favor of quality of life.

Lyon nights between city vibrancy and regulation: thinking through the quality of life concept

8Following the trend in many French and European cities, interest in nights has grown in Lyon. This shows in political speeches presenting urban nightlife as contributing to the city’s reputation at the European scale. This interest also shows in public actions organized in recent years to illuminate the city, to organize night events or to develop an offer of urban services. However, beyond the liveliness of the city, Lyon nights are still considered as a time to be regulated to avoid troubles and conflicts. To explain this trend, we will analyze nights in Lyon through the evolution of its representations and political speeches, as well as public actions implemented since the early 2000s. Initially, we will discuss the quality of life concept, which foundations will help to analyze the current changes in Lyon’s nightlife.

Studying quality of life and quality of nightlife

9Prior to discussing nights of the Lyon urban area, we need to set the basis to a better understanding of quality of life. According to the research conducted by Natalia Barbarino-Saulnier, quality of life, to start with, is a concept that has emerged in the current language. It can be defined as "une revendication collective portée par la société et […] une promesse politique engageant l’État et les collectivités territoriales [afin] de défendre l’amélioration des conditions d’existence de chacun" - a collective claim brought by society and [...] a political promise committing the state and local authorities [to] defend living conditions improvement for each individual - (Barbarino-Saulnier 2005: 03).

10Quality of life is also a scientific concept described as a two-faced entity. The first one is objective and questions the "conditions matérielles offertes aux individus" - material conditions offered to individuals - (Barbarino-Saulnier 2005: 30) which is similar to living environment and geographical areas in which people live. The second is subjective as each individual determines his own affinities and his own system of values, which shape his quality of life. Thus, to understand what shapes the quality of life we need to confront a given life environment with the values of the people who live there, who pass through it or use it on a daily or temporary basis (Martinotti 1994).

11Tackling quality of life comes down to questioning the aspirations, desires and needs of individuals and then questioning the ability of the living environment to satisfy them. We thus understand that the quality of life concept is made of multiple realities: there is no global concept whose characteristics could be unanimously shared, but unique qualities of life to each individual.

12Urban quality of life is often judged through daylife characteristics. However, at night, the environment and systems of values that shape the quality of life are redefined. First, the environment opportunities are restricted. The night geography stands no comparison to day geography, since the actual animated territories are concentrated in the historic city centers and form a night archipelago (Gwiazdzinski 2002). The city offer is reduced since most shops are closed and urban services are limited (...). People habits are different because most people are in their homes when another part of the population decides to extend their activities in the still lively areas of the city. These night features define a new environment reference that will impact quality of life assessment.

13The values of each individual are also redefined from urban day life and urban nightlife. Needs, desires, aspirations and choices find themselves modified and may oppose an individual to another. They may also be in contradiction within the individual himself, since one has various desires to be (Charles and Lipovetsky 2004) within several social groups (Maffesoli 2012) which influences one’s desires and expectations, here and now, with regard to their surroundings. Values will largely be influenced by how individuals relate to nights. If we can observe a real interest in night life for some, others will rather avoid going out during this specific city time and others will care to balance their lives between day and night time (Espinasse and Buhagiard 2004). Therefore, some will expect the night to be quiet and peaceful whereas others will look for some kind of entertainment, keeping in mind that these expectations car vary over time.

14Between the desire for calm and vibrancy, an approach through quality of life will not set any nightlife consideration preference. On the contrary, it will encourage them to join. These changes in life environment and values prove that time as well as values define quality of life. This adjustment shows that quality of life is different in daytime and nighttime.

Quality of life concept

Quality of life concept

Sources: Chausson, 2016 based on Barbarino-Saulnier 2005

A change in representations and speeches: when two cities come into conflict

15The analysis of Lyon’s night representations is based on a local press review. The aim is to identify the daily press message often liaising with the opportunities and tensions that occur within urban nights (Gwiazdzinski 2002). Thus, it participates in building individual and collective representations that can influence the individuals’ behaviors.

16The press review on Lyon's night was conducted via the news aggregator Europresse (, which specializes in research and information monitoring. Our analysis was conducted in 2013 and lists articles published from 2000 to 2012 - the results provided by Europresse before 2000 lacked reliability and were excluded from the analysis. The automatic search was conducted with the keywords nuit and nocturne. The articles were then shortlisted on a geographical basis since they had to report news occurring throughout Lyon urban area. In total, the press review relies on a corpus made of 481 articles mainly from Le Progrès, a daily newspaper and secondarily articles published in Lyon Capitale, La Tribune de Lyon, Mag2Lyon and Le Figaro-Lyon.

17Considering the whole referring period, festive, cultural and sports events mainly distinguish Lyon’s nighttime. In second place comes night management with articles informing about new night management and regulation systems. Then, three articles out of ten refer to disturbances, incidents, security and preventive actions. We can gather these three themes into a more inclusive one: the “troubled nights”. These troubles are of several kinds. Disturbances refer to noise and light pollution, lack of car parking solutions and dirtiness. Incidents mainly refer to assaults, burglaries, damages, and, secondarily, accidents, fires, fights and drunkenness. The safety issue comes with troubled nights for the urge to supervise and control night activities. We therefore conclude that the representations of Lyon’s nighttime through the local daily press are organized into three major streams of representation: vibrant nights are opposed to troubled nights which consequently become nights to be regulated.

Nighttime representations through the local daily press between 2000 and 2012

Nighttime representations through the local daily press between 2000 and 2012

Source: Chausson, 2013

18The change in urban nights image is also subject to political commitment. Again, the 2000’s were a turning point when a true political commitment on urban nights appeared. Our aim is thus to identify how politicians take a stand and how they take up the issue. This analysis is based on articles from the press review, as well as candidates programs during the 2001 and 2014 Lyon municipal elections.

19During these two election times, nights were mostly referred to through disturbances and safety regulations. As observed in the press review, nights are here approached as troubled times that candidates claim they can calm down. As such, they refer to "tranquillité publique" - public peace - to advocate for nights in Lyon when no disturbances is likely to cause trouble to the sleeping people. However, beside disturbances and security, nights are considered a true economic, touristic and cultural opportunity which justifies the will to place Lyon urban area at the same level as the most attractive European cities. Gérard Collomb, candidate to the municipal elections and mayor of Lyon since 2001, states in his program that "l’un des secteurs qui peut valoriser l’image d’une ville est sa capacité à répondre aux besoins de loisirs. En ce sens, la vie nocturne peut être un atout de premier ordre pour une ville. [Elle] est porteuse d’image. Dans le rayonnement d’une capitale comme Londres, l’attractivité de la vie nocturne joue un rôle certain. La qualité de la vie nocturne d’une ville joue incontestablement sur l’attraction qu’elle peut exercer sur les couches jeunes, dynamiques, intellectuelles [et] branchées" - one of the sectors that can enhance the image of a city is its ability to provide leisure. This makes nightlife a key asset for a city. [It] creates image. Attractive nightlife is a key component of a capital city’s attractiveness, such as London. The quality of nightlife that a city provides influences its attraction on young, dynamic, intellectual [and] trendy people - (Collomb 2001: 45). Beyond this strong interest expressed for nightlife, the candidate acknowledges that night "est aussi source de beaucoup de nuisances avec un conflit noctambules/riverains extrêmement fort" - is also source of much nuisance with extremely strong conflict between night birds and residents - (Collomb 2001: 46). Therefore, he clearly shows his intention to "atténuer l’acuité [même si] on ne résoudra jamais complétement le conflit […] dans les quartiers du centre ville" - soften the acuteness [while] we will never solve the conflict completely [...] in the downtown neighborhoods - (Collomb 2001: 46). Lyon nights seem torn between two political commitments which do not involve the same territorial issues. Locally, nights must be calm to satisfy the need for silence and rest of the residents; at a larger level, for the sake of international attractiveness, nights must be lively to promote "the 'vibrancy' of the city center" (Lovatt and O'Connor 2010: 128). Nights are widely used by politicians to testify the city vibrancy. But between local and global issues, they stand a double speech between stakes of vibrancy and cooling down of the city.

Sectoral and isolated public actions: a partial view of the quality of life at night

20Beyond representations and speeches, it is essential to understand how political projects result in public actions. These actions have been developed over the past decade. Initially focused on the night living environment development as well as event policies, public actions were subsequently oriented towards nightlife management and regulation tools.

21The first public actions involving reflections on development and improvement of the night living environment dates back to 1989, when the first "plan lumière" was implemented in Lyon. A true innovation at the time, the purpose of this document was to create a quality nightlife framework while allowing the readability of the city at night. Following on from the territory lighting plan, the development of some urban services supported individuals in their use of the nighttime territory. For example, the first Pleine lune bus line was put into operation in 2005, and has been followed by three other lines since, offering public transports to connect downtown and the various university campuses. The same year, Mirabilis, a night nursery was opened, providing a new childcare offer for night workers. The year after, the Espace des tempsDepartement of time of the Urban Community of Lyon - published the Lyon-Villeurbanne au cœur de la nuit map – Lyon-Villeurbanne at the heart of the night -, bringing together in one document all the shops and services open during the night: bars and nightclubs, but also tobacconists, pharmacies, bakeries, restaurants and emergency medical services or caring services.

22The development of Lyon’s nighttime also operates through holding major events, confirming nights as a living environment associated with culture and entertainment. The Fête des Lumières is the most emblematic example. For two centuries, this religious event has gathered people in Lyon during evening processions. Since 1989, the Plan Lumière development has led to institutionalizing the event. Since then, the event has been gaining importance. Held over four days since 1999, it attracts between three and four million visitors every year. Furthermore, music events also influence the night identity, such as the Nuits Sonores, which gathered about 138,000 people in 2016 and which reputation extends far beyond the regional borders.

23Further to the initiatives that have contributed to improving nightlife, the City of Lyon has also started the development of nightlife management and regulation tools. Over the past ten years, Lyon newspapers have often reported conflicts between residents and some night clubs, mainly for noise disturbances. Parties then usually appeal to the authorities (town council, local government, local or national police force) who resorted to calls to order, reduced opening hours or, more rarely, closing downs. But these resulted in other conflicts between authorities and people working in night business, trying to maintain their professional activities. These conflicts tearing the authorities between calm and vibrant nights inspired the creation of a nightlife department, in 2006, as a branch of the City of Lyon Public Peace Management. The latter controls that places open at night are legal and processes applications for late openings, which are then delivered by the local government. The department also manages the "Charte pour la qualité de la vie nocturne" - Nightlife Quality Charter - which aims at limiting conflicts between inhabitants and night professionals, because if "la Ville de Lyon a su insuffler, depuis plusieurs années, une nouvelle culture de la vie nocturne […] la tranquillité publique des riverains ne peut être mise de côté" - for several years the city of Lyon has been able inspire a new culture of nightlife [...] the peace of the inhabitants cannot be set aside - (Charte pour la qualité de la vie nocturne, 2014: 3). Following the principles of the charter, nightspots are certified by the City of Lyon displaying their commitment to living together in the night space-time. While laudable, this document partly considers the quality nightlife. It is in fact defined by the absence of disturbances and conflicts thus shaping the quality of life for local residents, that is to say, the sleeping city. What becomes of quality of life for the vibrant city and the working city?

24The 2000’s are essential to understand how Lyon nights changed. The change in representation, political commitment and the first public actions development shows that a greater share of the population is involved in nightlife. Even if this recent change seems to be in favour of Lyon nights development, two major stakes occur: to make nights vibrant on the one hand and to cool down nights within the global city rhythm on the other hand. These two general views of the city at night offer two opposing representations of the quality of life at night. In the first case, the quality of life at night is associated with entertainment possibilities in a vibrant and well-developed living environment. In the second case, quality of life means resting in a quiet and peaceful living environment. However these two representations of the city at night and the quality of life at night are not isolated from each other. Rather, they coexist within the same living environment thus causing tensions and conflicts between different and incompatible uses of the Lyon night space-time. This opposition curbs reflection on nights and a third representation of night emerges: nights to be regulated so as to calm down or avoid conflict.

25Among vibrant nights, nights to be pacified and nights to be regulated, it seems necessary to go beyond these separated representations of the city at night. Hence, we propose to analyze nights through quality of life. Indeed this concept tends to erase tensions between the city animation, calm and regulation issues. Rather than oscillating between these different conceptions of the city, the concept of quality of life makes it possible to gather the challenges around a reflection intended to answer two questions: what structures quality of life in the sleeping city, the working city and the vibrant city? And shall nightlife be considered so as to meet the needs, sometimes contradictory, of the inhabitants of our cities?

Lyon urban area nights synthesis

Lyon urban area nights synthesis

Source : Chausson, 2016

26Moreover, actions taken in the Lyon area are more a matter of separated actions, juxtaposed in time so as to meet very targeted issues: enhancing the living environment through lighting and great events, developing the first transport solutions and night children care, as well as pacifying conflicts occurring with the vibrant night. But city night is much more than that! It is also a working time which involved 15% of French workers in 2009, meaning nearly 3.5 million people in France (DARES 2009) and about 100 000 individuals in the Lyon urban area if we translate this statistic to the population structure. It is also an economic sector that makes 2.8 billion euros each year in France, according to the Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie - The French Union of Professions and Industries in the Hotel Business. Beyond night work and economic issues, the night is also a socially productive space-time allowing to restore oneself taking distance with standards and constraints involved with daytime city. (Lovatt and O'Connor 1995 Desjeux and al. 1999). Thus, beyond conflict, urban nights are a plural temporality. A study through quality of life thus broadens the spectrum of realities of the city at nighttime. This makes possible to study what is at stake in an integrated way considering the night as another side of the city which needs to be thought out in a global way, between tensions and opportunities.

Thinking out nights as an urban project built by quality of life

27To put the potential of a renewed approach of the night to the test, we will use the outcomes of a first approach to the quality of life by night in Lyon. Firstly, we will study what quality of life refers to and its structuring elements. This knowledge will then lead us to identify thinking patters so as to study night as an urban project, meaning as a project for the city, which aims to redefine possibilities to organize the local society at night.

Quality of life at night reference fields

28To give substantial meaning to quality of life, Natalia Barbarino-Saulnier positions people at the center of the urban analysis. She grants their subjectivity importance, asking them about what is essential in their daily lives for a quality life. She then selects the criteria that make consensus and defines a certain "unanimous" definition of quality of life within the city. The second step of this method is to make a guideline to analyze the opportunities of the living environment and their location disparities. Considering quality of life at night requires the opposite process. The individual is always at the center of the analysis, but the focus is on identifying differences in needs, desires and aspirations, which are at the basis of night conflicts.

29Finally, changing perspective consists in identifying what structures the quality of life in the sleeping city, the vibrant city and the working city. This is a new way of analyzing urban nights as their complexity and diversity are not left aside. Beyond conflicts and mismanagement, studying nights through quality of life reveals expectations and aspirations of everyone. Therefore, it is possible to identify what works, what could be improved and what is needed to make it a true life time integrated into the overall rhythm of the city.

30In order to achieve a first approach of the quality of life at night in Lyon, we will use the results of a questionnaire-based study conducted on social networks in 2012. For a start, we need to state the limitations of this exercise. Indeed, the survey is not representative of the Lyon population and is based solely on responses from 92 persons of which 62% are women and 38% are men. Also, a majority of people aged 26 to 35 (57%) answered the questionnaire, 25% were aged 18-25, 11% were aged 36-45 and 6% were over 46. However, this approach does not aim to propose a definition of what could be the quality of nightlife in Lyon. The goal is to test the possibilities of an individual-targeted approach, by answering the following question: "If I tell you quality of life at night, what does it inspire you?". Thus, we will discuss the reactions of the people who took part in this quality of nightlife study and analyze the different types of answers and their contribution to the knowledge of Lyon nights.

31Based on the results, four main quality of nightlife reference fields have been identified. According to the answers, it is valued referring to different settings: housing, night spots and more broadly, the city as a general living environment. A fourth reference field differs from the other three and refers to the quality of social relations.

32At home, quality of life at night is related to the satisfaction of one’s possessions and its comfort level: having a good bed, a good mattress, a comfortable duvet, air temperature neither too warm nor too cold. The quality of life at night is then estimated comparing one’s home environment to outdoor city and other homes. It is thus structured according to home ability to isolate the individual from the busy street or neighbors.

33Concerning nightspots, quality of life refers to the overall quality of its services. The nightspot must thus offer real animation with a unique programming that sets it apart from its competitors. The quality of life at night is assessed according to the variety of recreational opportunities and environments that offer different facilities of a city or neighborhood. In addition to the service, individuals are mindful to accessibility, sometimes limited by selective admission or low affordable rates.

34Quality of life at night is then estimated considering the city, as a general nightlife environment. It is valued according to the possibilities or inadequacies of services offered by the city. Mobility is very often mentioned. Individuals care about easy access to nightlife appeals and easy coming back home at anytime. Expectations regarding the city offer, however, remain focused and limited. Indeed, one individual expressed the need to access to the same services as daytime, whereas the majority of respondents expressed measured and targeted needs combining quality of nightlife with greater diversity of urban services such as shops, culture and restaurants. Nevertheless, these services were not further clarified. Quality of nightlife environment was also assessed referring to moods. Issues of lighting and city aesthetics, between light and darkness were thus raised. Liveliness and calm opposed to daytime also reflects on the city nightlife environment. Notions of calm and liveliness in the city must be apprehended with the need to feel safe.

35Safety includes the last reference field for quality of life at night: relationship to one another. So enjoying the city in a friendly and respectful environment, without fearing of being annoyed seems to be a particularly structuring feature for the quality of life. It is also associated with greater freedom to be, which favors social interactions.

36The first approach we have just completed shows that quality of life at night is valued referring to various material and social contexts. However this approach requires further analysis with a more complete study of each identified reference fields. Furthermore, other fields remain unconsidered, night work in particular. In 2010, a study conducted by the Lyon Urban Planning Agency has highlighted that night work could, in some cases, be particularly structuring for the quality of life. It is an opportunity, for some interviewed employees to organize their family time better, to have free time during the day and enjoy better working conditions. However, the study also highlighted how important it is to adapt urban services for night workers such as transportation, child care or restaurants (Planning Agency of Lyon, 2010).

37From a higher perspective, our approach emphasizes that quality of life belongs to the field of privacy and individual integrity as well as one’s freedom to be in his environment. Intimacy translates into the privacy of a protective housing or kindly social relations. Quality of life is also a matter of freedom: the freedom to enjoy appeals of the living environment, without limit or hindrance. Between privacy and freedom, quality of life questions deeply each personal and unique relationship to a shared living environment, where living together happens. Therefore, questioning quality of life at night comes down to questioning the fundamental relationship of individuals to their environment following the city of choice (Chalas 1997) principle and the right to the continuous city (Gwiazdzinski 2005) which is altered in a city night where tensions or conflicts occur.

38Nights seam "set back" in the overall city rhythm, although activities and urban life do not end when night starts, and they lead to particular needs. After daytime, there are even a restricted number of activities going on. It leads us to consider nights as an urban minimum which, from urban area planning and service development, should be thought out preserving the temporal continuity of the quality of life. Based on these preliminary findings, we will develop two propositions so as to consider nights as an urban project built by and in favor of quality of life: the first proposition will lay out thinking patterns so as to study how to improve nighttime living conditions and the second proposition will focus on reversing point of view, placing people at the heart of the night and city analysis.

Thinking out night living environment

39The approach through quality of life has reaffirmed the fundamental cool vs vibrant nights duality of the city, creating disturbances and possibly conflicts within a shared life environment. This can be observed in Lyon, where nightlife is predominantly localized in the historic districts of the city center - Old City and the Croix-Rousse Hill - which are also the neighborhoods to the most densely populated in the city. Thus, at night, these areas experience tensions due to different needs and two opposed concepts of quality of life at night.

40On the city scale, thinking out nightlife environment suggests at first to imagine a new night geography able to reduce direct co-presence of the cool night and the vibrant night. There would be a possibility to consider a space-time development of territories (Gwiazdzinski 2007) where the night spaces would be further integrated into the space and time grid of the city. Indeed in the Lyon area, there are districts which characteristics allow night vibrancy without compromising the necessary calm of the city. For example, the Part Dieu business center, essentially populated by day, with few estates, is subject to vitality and vibrancy drop after office hours. The point here is not to advocate for arbitrary nightlife relocation. However, this example illustrates that the city areas operate under different rhythms and some have characteristics of both space and time for a peaceful integration of nightlife. Therefore thinking out nightlife with the aim to reunite vibrancy and calm of the city lies in designing a night territory grid which would cleverly suit the different space-time of the city.

41Beyond thinking out a territory night grid, our approach to the quality of life at night highlighted the importance of working at finer scales at district level, which needs to be composed and organized, including from the atmosphere and urban supply point of view. The notion of atmosphere has been widely recognized as a defining element of the nightlife environment and allows to think it as a "milieu protecteur en sympathie avec les hommes [, dans une] conception partagée d’un environnement actif, ayant des effets sur le corps, l’esprit ou le comportement des individus" - kindly, protective environment, at one with individuals [in a] shared conception of an active environment, with effects on the body, mind or behavior of individuals - (Thibaud 2015: 16). In our approach, the atmosphere notion was much used to refer to the lighting of the territory. However, in Lyon, reflections on the light plan were more conducted through an architecture and heritage analysis of the city by day rather than identifying the real nightlife areas. For example, the Croix-Rousse hill was not subject of specific recommendations, unlike emblematic places of Lyon's heritage – the Fourvière Basilica, the University of the Berges du Rhône – that are no places of specific nightlife. There is then a gap between the map drawn by lighting and the map of real places of nightlife. This is how reflections on the nightlife environment are "déconnecté[es] des véritables usages de la ville" - disconnected from the uses of the city - (Mallet 2009: 237) and an approach through quality of life would redirect these reflections combining them with a comprehensive approach of places of nightlife.

42Finally, the approach through quality of life also encourages night environment development through adapting the urban supply. Whether for night birds or night workers, needs at night remain targeted. Greater diversity and quality cultural offer and events, better restaurants, childcare and especially transportation services are part of the identified concerns. The aim is not to propose the complete day offer at night, but it seems important to adapt the offer diversity and make it more visible so as to make nights more attainable and hospitable (Gwiazdzinski 2007).

Towards night town planning: time and individuals at the heart of the research

43If the city by day has long been the subject of attention from politicians and city professionals, nights remain a segmented environment, but it would be necessary to invest it in a comprehensive and transversal way, including it in town planning perceptions and practices.

44On a prospective basis, we could advocate for a transversal and comprehensive development plan of the urban night that would set guidelines for better integration of nightlife in cities and the space-time development of urban areas in terms of atmosphere, visibility or service offering. Such an approach is attractive and would make it possible to study urban night in its diverse realities - between calm night, vibrant night and working night - and at multiple scales – urban area, neighborhood, building. This is already the way of thinking development for the city by day, but transferring it to the night requires a change in point of view and a new urban planning practice.

45Think out night is all about thinking out the spaces and times of the city. Elected officials and urban planners readily conceptualize the city in its space dimension, but they are much less familiar with the time approach which is crucial to understanding local realities (Beyer and Royoux 2015). Thus, defining night town planning (Bonfiglioli 2005) involves more broadly considering time-driven town planning, placing the individual and his desires at the heart of the research on our cities future (Gwiazdzinski 2013). These considerations are not new as since the late 1980s, Italian town planners, forerunners in time approaches of the territory, invite us to think urban spaces as chronotypes - Cronotopo in Italian - which means "la représentation spatio-temporelle des activités, reliant la ville bâtie à la façon dont elle est investie par les activités sociales" - the time and space representation of activities, connecting the city built the way it is invested in social activities - (Mallet 2013). Therefore, defining a time-driven urban planning requires to go beyond the solely spatial and static approach to move toward a dynamic view of the city realities where space exists, but also evolve according to day-time cycle and to the individual uses.

46This new perspective involves "[d']introduire de nouvelles formes de participation et de nouveaux instruments pour réaliser une lecture critique des réalités spatio-temporelles d'un territoire et modifier les règles du jeu pour aborder la planification et les problèmes locaux" - introducing new forms of participation and new tools to make a critical analysis of a given territory time and space realities and change the rules to tackle planning and local issues - (Beyer and Royoux 2015). Technically, this means reconsidering the "traditional" observation and territory planning tools. Indeed, including time implies to create new ways to represent a territory dynamics - animated chronotype maps are an example that should be more broadly used. From a planning perspective, it means to go beyond the 'traditional' materials - The Urban Area Development Plan and Territory Cohesion Scheme - which are exclusively dedicated to space and ignore time (Gwiazdzinski 2002). Time can also be a variable in urban projects designs when infrastructures and equipments use in time is taken into account and premises cyclical uses are anticipated.

47However, beyond the technical aspects, the most fundamental challenge, to include time into a renewed urbanism practice, lies in reversing points of view, so as to position the individual at the heart of a co-construction approach to the future of the city. Our approach through quality of life at night, even partial and incomplete as it is, has shown that granting credit to individuals’ subjectivity allows collecting tangible knowledge from which it is possible to initiate reflections on cities development. Indeed, how can we reflect on atmosphere without asking the involved parties what it is about? Also, how can we consider developing a service offer at night without considering the needs of individuals who live and make use of it?

48However, integrating individuals is not limited to knowing their desires. In fact, thinking nights as an urban project designed by and in favor of quality of life also implies that individuals are actively involved in the co-construction of their living environment. This approach does not consist in reversing the parties hierarchy in the city, but it encourages meetings and discussions (Beyer and Royoux 2015) following a collective intelligence process, in order to bring public action closer to the population desires.

49Co-construction approaches have already proven themselves, as shown by the many night crossings (Gwiazdzinski 2006) initiated in many French and European cities and bringing together elected representatives, technicians, researchers, citizens, etc ... in order to make a shared night diagnosis. In 2013, the Genève explore sa nuit event (Gwiazdzinski and Chausson 2013) brought together over a hundred people during a night crossing of the city. The goal was to walk through the city to immerse oneself in the night on foot in order to detect its tensions and opportunities and to meet its population. The co-conscruction session that followed the event helped to develop guidance for more welcoming nights, especially as far as transports, public places conveniences and city players networking are concerned.

50Night crossings are more than events, they demonstrate that crossing point of views on the city is needed, starting from a simple idea: anyone at his own level is a new source of knowledge and is able to propose concrete ideas to make nights more welcoming. There are still many steps to take: to move from shared diagnosis to the co-construction of a genuine public policy of the night. New exchanges platforms are yet to be invented and new jobs to create because the town planner no longer seems to be the only expert of his territory.


51The fact that cities have an interest to make nights vibrant is unquestionable. But they are also willing to keep nights as a time of rest in the global city rhythm. This antagonism is the core of the problem and is the reason why nights are a time to regulate, so that the entertainment issues do not create conflicts with rest issues. To overcome conflicts that hold reflections on urban nights at a standstill, considering nights through quality of life allows a different approach of the topic.

52This approach presents two essential advantages. The first is pedagogical and a new reflection on nightlife, and leads to a new idea of nights and to re-thinking nightlife in terms of meeting the needs and desires of each individual. The second is methodological since interviewing individuals makes it possible to create a tangible knowledge on which we can rely on to co-build a "future souhaitable" - desirable future - (Heurgon 2005: 52) for urban nights.

53Faced with increasing night entertainment and night work, nights should be thought out with favorable consideration so as to avoid excessive spreading that would risk to dissolve it into a global urban time, killing off its primary nature that consists of calm, peacefulness, darkness and some form of intimacy. From lifestyle potential to people’s aspiration, the approach by the quality of life makes asking fundamental questions possible: What importance do we give to the nights of our cities? How do we wish them to develop? And above all, how far shall we accept its development? This questioning enables to achieve a real substantive work and engage in a debate on how to live together in a shared living environment, referring to nights as a common good.

54Our overall study has considered the urban night as a laboratory in which we allowed ourselves to think of new construction methods for potential futures of the city. As Luc Gwiazdzinski often said, "la nuit a beaucoup de choses à dire au jour" - night has a lot to tell to the day - (Gwiazdzinski 2002, 2005, 2007). So, to what extent does this study provide food for thought for a renewed approach to the city by day? Our study finally highlighted the following fundamental idea: think urban development by questioning the intimate ties between the people with their territory that remain the two fundamental entities of the city. This implies to redefine our working methods, our exchanges platforms and the local democracy expression modes.

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List of illustrations

Title Quality of life concept
Credits Sources: Chausson, 2016 based on Barbarino-Saulnier 2005
File image/png, 544k
Title Nighttime representations through the local daily press between 2000 and 2012
Credits Source: Chausson, 2013
File image/png, 776k
Title Lyon urban area nights synthesis
Credits Source : Chausson, 2016
File image/png, 780k
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Electronic reference

Nicolas Chausson, From Conflict Management to Quality of Life at Night. The First Approach of Lyon Urban Area NightsArticulo - Journal of Urban Research [Online], 11 | 2015, Online since 17 November 2016, connection on 19 July 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Nicolas Chausson

Nicolas Chausson is a Town planner who graduated from the Institut d’Urbaniste of Lyon. Since 2011, he studies as a PhD student at the Grenoble University Pacte-Territoire lab, directed by Luc Gwiazdzinski and in partnership with the Lyon Town Planning Agency. Email:

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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