Can Paris end up the arena’s bicycle capital?

Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to make Paris the world’s most bikeable city. But Blogging Kit the congested and polluted capital nonetheless has a protracted way to head earlier than it could rival the likes of Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Foreign site visitors frequently describe it as the world’s maximum beautiful avenue, a risk to soak in unrivaled views of the Eiffel Tower whilst coasting along the River Seine, a few inches from the water. But to Parisian commuters, the Voie Georges-Pompidou is generally a toll road into the city, the best uncongested specific direction which can get a car from the western fringe of Paris into the city center in the blink of an eye fixed. At least, that’s the way it used to be.

After a summer time of road works, motorists taking the familiar ramp right down to the riverside pressure have observed themselves channeled into a single lane – the alternative one, closest to the water, having been transformed right into a two-way motorbike direction, the French capital’s first actual express direction for bicycles. Officially, the “voice specific” for bikes opens in October, but the first cyclists have already began racing along the 4-kilometre tune among Boulogne and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim.


Among them is Pierre, 40, wearing a black T-shirt and sun shades as he whizzes to paintings while basking inside the sun. “What a treat in this weather!” he exults. “I can get some workout, work on my tan or even overtake cars!” Pierre is clearly playing the journey, and saving time too: “It takes 20 minutes to get to paintings on my motorbike, in preference to the same old 45 mins by using metro,” he points out, vowing to take in biking on a every day basis.

Her floral dress fluttering in the past due-summer breeze, Julie, fifty-seven, is likewise loving the experience. The cycle lane is a danger to revel in “the pleasant attractions Paris has to provide, with the Eiffel Tower and the Seine”, says the Canadian diplomat. “Before this I was stuck with my bike in among vehicles or on pavements clogged with tourists,” she provides, hailing the brand new specific lane as a “first rate” improvement.

Bicycle capital

The refurbished Voie Georges-Pompidou marks the first step in Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s bold plan to transform vehicle-choked Paris into the world’s biking capital. The “Plan vélo” (Bike Project) is a key part of efforts to lessen pollutants by taking motor automobiles off the streets of Paris. The purpose is to double the period of cycle lanes (from the modern-day 700 kilometres, which incorporates unprotected lanes) and create 10,000 new parking places for bikes with the aid of 2020.

The scale of the plan has angered many motorists, who accuse Hidalgo’s team of seeking to impose a foreign model. “You can’t force human beings to turn out to be cyclists,” says one disgruntled driving force on the Voie Georges-Pompidou, lamenting the truth that the limited-access highway’s 30,000 each day customers will be confined to just one lane with a purpose to make manner for motorcycles. “[Cycling] isn’t part of French way of life,” he claims. “It’s a Dutch issue. Here we don’t have that many motorcycles!”

According to Danish professional Mikael Colville-Andersen, who monitors cities’ cycling infrastructure, the perception that there is the sort of factor as a bicycle culture is “a completely mistaken concept invented by means of fighters of the 2 wheels”. Bicycles, he factors out, “were very famous inside the French capital up until the Forties.” They had been then regularly squeezed out by way of struggle and the boom inside the auto enterprise. “There’s nothing new approximately cycling in Paris,” he argues. “Paris truly desires to take in the habit once more.”

Picking up that addiction would require a first-rate upgrade of the present infrastructure, and the Paris Bike Project is currently lagging delayed. One of its flagship routes, a broad -way lane alongside the famed Rue de Rivoli, that allows you to permit cyclists to zip past the Louvre museum and Tuileries Gardens, is now expected to be prepared within the summer time of 2018, nearly a yr past due. Paris City Hall has blamed the postpone on a six-month moratorium imposed by way of the neighborhood police prefect, who nevertheless wields considerable electricity on topics referring to street traffic.

The prefect, Michel Delpuech, has voiced issue about the impact of the planned cycle lane on site visitors along Rue de Rivoli. In an interview with French daily Le Monde, he warned that the cycle lane may hinder the motion of police and different emergency vehicles. But Hidalgo’s team is confident that a brand new statute voted earlier this yr will unblock the situation through moving some of the prefecture’s powers to the metropolis hall.

The Nordic cycling utopia

Meanwhile, paintings on different lanes has also fallen behind, in keeping with the pro-motorcycle group “Paris en Selle” (Paris at the saddle). Its “Observatory of the Plan Vélo” says best five percentage of the planned infrastructure has been finished to this point, with only and half years left before Hidalgo’s term is up for renewal. In order to hurry up production, the Socialist mayor has declared 2017 a “bicycle year” and entreated her group to speed up production.

The backlog is not any surprise for Colville-Andersen, who has worked with cities round the arena to improve situations for cyclists. He describes the French capital’s plan as more “formidable” than “practical”. “But we’re used to this,” he provides. “Politicians round the arena are all eager to make their metropolis the world’s cycling capital.”

By all accounts, Paris still has an extended way to go earlier than it may rival the sector’s cutting-edge biking capitals, namely Copenhagen and the Dutch towns of Utrecht and Amsterdam. As things stand, the French capital is most effective thirteenth in the annual table of the sector’s maximum bikeable towns, an authoritative ranking drawn up by means of Colville-Andersen’s Copenhagenize Design Company. It lags nicely behind other French cities: Strasbourg (4th) and Bordeaux (6th). Figures for 2015 confirmed that most effective four percent of Parisians journey a motorbike to paintings, in opposition to 16 percentage in Strasbourg and eleven.8 percentage in Bordeaux.

“Our aim is to reach 15 percent,” says Christophe Najdovski, who is in a rate of shipping at Paris City Hall. “But glaringly we are able to manage in five years what Copenhagen and Amsterdam achieved with 4 a long time of bicycle-friendly guidelines.” In the Danish capital, a veritable biking utopia, the number of bicycles has these days overtaken that of motors.

‘Copenhagenising’ Paris

According to Colville-Andersen, who lives in Copenhagen, one of the city’s foremost assets is its consumer-pleasant community of bike paths. “Visitors who come for the first time will easily find their manner round by way of motorcycle because the network is uniform,” he explains. “That is not the case in Paris,” he adds, pointing to some of “incoherent” alternatives, along with setting bikes and buses inside the identical lane on a few roads. And then there’s the “entirely silly” ideas, including a planned cycle lane within the center of the Champs-Élysées due in 2018. “It will fail, because glaringly it’s going to result in accidents, and provide ammunition to the motorbike haters,” he laments.

“Paris en Selle”, the seasoned-bike organization, also criticises the discrepancies and disconnect among motorbike paths. “You can be counted the quantity of truly bikeable roads at the hands of one hand,” says the group’s spokesman, Simon Labouret. “What’s absolutely crucial isn’t always the goal of 1,400 kilometers of cycle lanes, however as an alternative ensuring they’re exceptional through growing proper itineraries for motorcycles anyplace they are wished,” he says.

The latest explicit way on the Voie Georges-Pompidou is a far more encouraging sign of the French capital’s “Copenhagenisation”, says Colville-Andersen. “It meets the specified standards, with a non-stop axis in both guidelines, sufficient room to overhaul and a separator to defend cyclists from motor cars,” he explains. More commonly, the Danish expert says Paris officers have to take inspiration from their “awesome underground metro gadget” to offer motorcycle users with a comparable community “allowing them to move about quickly and safely”.

Colville-Andersen notes that biking infrastructure is considerably less expensive to finance than roads. “And the return on investment is quick and large, consisting of most important blessings for public health,” he adds. But critics say the Paris Bike Project will need ways more sources to satisfy its ambitious objectives. For now, the City of Light has revised one of those targets. It no longer objectives to turn out to be the arena’s cycling capital, however instead “one of the global’s motorbike capitals”, says city corridor’s Najdovski – “in all humility

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