The story of the clever bison
Over the years and technological advances, Bison Futé has established itself as the symbol of real-time public traffic information. From the Ministry of Equipment to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, discover the history of Bizon futé.
Prehistory of the Bison
In 1966, the National Gendarmerie, in collaboration with France Inter, took the initiative to create a center for informing road users.
Two years later, the services of the Ministry of Equipment and those of the Ministry of the Interior were merged. So it moved to the Technical Center of the Gendarmerie, located in Fort Rosny-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis), the National Road Information Center (CNIR).
Over the years, the system has expanded. Regional Road Information and Coordination Centers (CRICR) have been set up in Bordeaux, Metz, Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Rennes and Créteil.
The traffic jam of the century
On Saturday, August 2, 1975, several thousand motorists, going on vacation to the south of France or Spain, found themselves stuck in a giant traffic jam of 600 kilometers, that is, about 60,000 vehicles stuck simultaneously. In total, 2 million hours lost in traffic jams, a sad record that affects public authorities. A few weeks later, the director of roads and road traffic, Michel Feve, asks Jean Poul, engineer of Roads and Bridges, to get the head of the department of operation and road safety to find a solution.
He then assembles a small team, with the aim of encouraging drivers to delay their departures and thereby spread the journeys over time, reinforce the implementation of alternative routes to ensure a better spread of traffic in space and advise drivers by providing them with waiting points along the roads. The clever bison was born.
The objective is to embody traffic information and make it dynamic and user-friendly. That is why the authorities choose a mascot, which should be identifiable by everyone. The ministry is considering conveying its messages through an animal.
We propose “Thimotée”, a bird that sees far with large binoculars; “Super-Gertrude”, from the name derived from the central Bordeaux road computer; “Ginette”, the giraffe, who from the top of her long neck would dominate the situation… But at the end of the day it is a human, a clever bison, imagined by Daniel Robert, who is adopted.
On the road to success
Since the first year, Bison futé focuses its action on three axes:
- dizzying journeys through time (thanks to recommended times and designated rest areas);
- reinforcement of Bi-roads (more than 3,500 km of bi-roads have been laid since 1976);
- communication with users through 64 daily national and regional newspapers.
Since its creation, the success is there. The results are even “spectacular”, welcomes the Ministry of Transport, which notes that one in four drivers follow Bison smart’s advice.
Compared to a year ago, a 73% reduction in the number of lost hours was observed. During the fifteen busiest days of summer, the reduction observed compared to trends is 50%: the “smart bison phenomenon” was born.
To begin with, Bison futé first provides advice to holidaymakers in the south-west of France, then gradually extends it to the national road network throughout the year. With technological advances, it has established itself as the symbol of real-time public traffic information.
The Evolution of Bison Futé’s Means of Communication
In 1976, Bison futé decided to publish every year a new type of road map, which specifies traffic jams, alternate routes and waiting points with the famous Bison futé logo. This map will be published until 2003, after which it will be abandoned due to its very general information.
Bison futé then distributes its information via radio, internet and newspapers thanks to a twofold policy:
- a provisional calendar gives, since 1983, a color for each day, divided into periods of time, according to scheduled departures and returns: green (normal), orange (dense), red (very dense) and black (avoid taking the road, extremely difficult traffic);
- real-time information, via a free voice server from a landline called Audiotex (on 0800 100 200), free software to download to your computer.
In 1997, a website is created. It makes traffic information data available to the general public, transport professionals and the media. It was modernized in 2006 for better quality information and greater flexibility of use, with the introduction of new features (alarm wear, real-time traffic points, sections dedicated to transport professionals). On this occasion, a new firm was created, illustrating the era of real-time traffic information, in all journeys, on a daily basis and not only when you go on holiday: “Bison Futé, in all your journeys, from departure to arrival “.
The website was revamped in 2013 to simplify the search for information on real-time traffic conditions and traffic forecasts. Information is updated directly from all players in the system.
In 2016, Bison Futé launched its free mobile app for Android and Apple smartphones. This is a new stage in the history of the public traffic information service, which allows access to forecasts and direct visualization of the traffic situation from anywhere.