Plan Vélo Paris: Does the City of Light Become the City of Bikes?
PARIS – Nantes has been in the spotlight as home of this year’s Velo-city conference, but 400 kilometres away, another French city is working to shift gears and become a model for urban cycling. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has rolled out a plan velo to transform cycling infrastructure by 2020, in a bid to make the vibrant capital “more sustainable, more equitable and more just.”
More Cycling and Express Routes
A €150-million plan velo, which the mayor’s year-old government launched this spring, includes a doubling of cycling routes to 1400 kilometres, adding more bike-only corridors, and expanding parking in neighbourhoods and near public transport. The project Paris 2020 also features the creation of north-south and east-west express corridors, and more along the banks of the Seine. In addition, Parisian leaders want to extend a current network of paths to create three ring routes around the city of 12.5 million.
“We have made the decision to mobilise all the means necessary to put this in place quickly and harmoniously,” Mayor Hidalgo said in announcing the plan velo on 14 April. The Socialist politician sees the expansion of cycling as a way to create a less noisy, congested and polluted city.
Étienne, a 25-year-old who commutes to his job as a night hotel clerk near the Gare de l’Est railway station, likes what the mayor is doing. “This is the best way for me to get around,” he said one June morning, riding one of the city’s Vélib share bikes. “And after working all night, this gives me the energy to get home.”
Plan Velo Paris – Amount of Bicycle Usage Is Constantly Rising
The growth in Vélib itself is a sign of how cycling has taken off in Paris. The sharing scheme has doubled, to more than 20,000 bikes and 1400 stations, since it was launched in July 2007. The number of Parisians who regularly use bicycles has also doubled, to more than 650,000 since 2001, according to the government. Still, Paris lags behind the European Union average for commuting by bike, with walking and public transport together favoured by more than 80% of Parisians. Just 2% of people commute regularly by bicycle compared to the 6.24% EU average, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation. Cycling is far more common in other capitals, such as Berlin (13%), Ljubljana (12%), and Vienna (6%). Under Mayor Hidalgo’s Paris 2020 ambitions, the figure for cycling is to grow to 15%.
Riding a Bike in Paris
Efforts by the current and previous Parisian governments to promote pedal-powered urban mobility have drawn mixed reactions. Representatives of the MDB (Mieux se Déplacer à Bicyclette) advocacy group have expressed concern about the use of shared cycling and bus lanes, a scheme they say is far more risky than creating bike-only routes on streets. But in a ranking of 23 big European cities, the Soot Free for the Climate campaign gives Paris top marks for its efforts to promote cycling and walking, while also reducing vehicular speed limits to improve safety for foot and bicycle traffic, though it says Paris fails when it comes to reducing auto pollution.
Étienne says that while he commutes nearly every day by bike (“Okay, maybe not every day in the winter”), the trend hasn’t caught on with many of his friends. “Most of them still use the Métro or walk,” he explains while waiting at a traffic signal on Boulevard de Magenta. “And I think there’s still a problem with Paris drivers – they can be really crazy and ignore our rights. But as I say, this gives me energy after working all night.”
Image © marfis75 on flickr