Bikes wedge their way into heavy Paris traffic

Paris (AFP) – Stein van Oosteren was cycling together the Avenue Denfert Rochereau in Paris when, to his surprise, he uncovered himself in a “caravan” of bikes.

“Not way too lengthy ago, I was all by itself on that road,” he said.

An avid cyclist and spokesman for the group-led biking advocacy organisation Collectif Velo Ile-de-France, van Oosteren has plenty of enterprise these times.

Since France emerged from its two-month lockdown in May, the number of cyclists in Paris has skyrocketed, rising by more than 50 per cent, in accordance to the metropolis council.

Films on social media of packs of cyclists along the Rue de Rivoli — a historic, bustling thoroughfare that cuts throughout central Paris — elicited astonished reactions online.

Fifty kilometres (about 30 miles) of short-term bike lanes were established up through the lockdown in just the ring highway, and a different 100 km in the encompassing suburbs.

Having said that, the two-wheel increase, authorities and advocates say, is not a joyful incident but the consequence of several years of planning to cut polluting website traffic on choked streets accelerated by many crises.

“The good thing about Paris is not so much that they manufactured some pop-up bicycle lanes, that is just the idea of the iceberg,” reported Stefan Bendiks, director of Artgineering, a Brussels-based mobility style and design agency.

“They worked for several years on a reliable approach for strengthening the metropolis and obtaining a great narrative about it.”

– A tale of two crises –

Throughout a massive, weeks-very long transportation strike in December and January, the range of cyclists on some streets a lot more than doubled, stated van Oosteren, a dual Dutch-French citizen.

That took place all over again in the weeks right after the virus lockdown eased, he extra.

Much more than 15,000 riders took out an once-a-year subscription for Velib’, the Paris community bike share program, in the first 7 days of May possibly.

Several Parisians have also dusted off their aged bikes, taking gain of a point out-funded nationwide scheme that gives 50 euros ($57) in the direction of bike repairs.

The initiative, launched on May 11, cost an approximated 20 million euros.

It aimed for 300,000 repairs by year’s close but nearly achieved that determine inside of a thirty day period and a 50 percent, mentioned Olivier Schneider, head of the Federation des Usagers de la Bicyclette, an umbrella organisation of 365 cycling advocacy teams across France.

Bicycle mend stores contacted by AFP had waiting around periods of involving 1 and a 50 % and three months, even for the simplest take care of.

– The Dutch product –

“For 40 several years, we had been beneath the effect that nobody was listening to us,” Schneider mentioned.

“But the bicycle generally arrives all over in occasions of disaster.”

Just after the 1973 oil crisis, The Netherlands was the to start with European nation to heavily commit in bicycle infrastructure.

In the late 1970s, Denmark formulated biking after a proposed highway infrastructure community was deemed way too costly.

Paris, nonetheless, did not wait for a disaster.

Considering that 2015, it has invested 150 million euros as aspect of a target to turn out to be a “world biking money”.

The 5-12 months program included doubling Paris cycle lanes from 700 to 1,400 km, producing 10,000 bicycle parking spots and upgrading the Velib’ method, which had been slipping into disrepair.

Even right before the Rue de Rivoli transformed two motor vehicle lanes into bicycle paths, a amount of streets and highways ended up shut down or narrowed to make place for far more bikes.

But the COVID-19 disaster, industry experts say, gave the city an impetus to swiftly hook up the disparate components of this network.

“When you create a bicycle route, it really is no great until you link it to a community,” van Oosteren said.

“It is really like building a faucet and not connecting it to the h2o method.”

– Green wave –

The travel to reduce vehicle targeted visitors in France isn’t confined to the capital.

Seventy cities and cities in the Paris region have a biking infrastructure strategy, Stephane Beaudet, vice president of Ile-de-France Mobilites and mayor of Evry-Courcouronnes, a suburb about 30 km from Paris, told AFP by phone.

“That is earlier unheard of,” he reported.

Paying out on cycling infrastructure throughout the area has far more than doubled since 1995, to 25 million euros for every calendar year, he added.

In Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Grenoble and other towns, extra than 10 percent of all excursions between dwelling and work are by bicycle, according to Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition figures.

A string of nearby election wins by France’s Greens in significant towns together with Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux implies that bold cycling infrastructure strategies could become the norm.

“The success of the most latest elections display that there is well-liked desire for new modes of transportation and which is likely to go on into the upcoming,” reported Jean-Sebastien Catier, of Paris en Selle, a bike advocacy organisation.

– A symbol to the globe –

Paris’ dense city centre nonetheless nevertheless poses difficulties for cyclists, with some bicycle lanes managing towards site visitors together narrow streets and others swiftly painted on pavements.

Hurdles this kind of as a effective car or truck foyer and inadequate bicycle parking options also continue to be.

Last thirty day period, to the dismay of cycling advocates, a Television ad by electric bike business VanMoof was rejected by the French advertising and marketing authority for “making a weather of panic” soon after referring to CO2 emissions from cars.

But, if Paris can get men and women on their bikes, “you will find no more time an excuse for a great deal of other cities in the world”, mentioned Angela van der Kloof, a researcher at Mobycon, a community of Dutch cycling specialists.

Catier agreed.

“The symbolic character of Paris and the fact that what it truly is doing is quite formidable… reveals that we can do this anyplace.”

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