A newly unveiled plan aims to expand Paris’s cycle lane network from the current 440km (275 miles) to 700km (435 miles) by 2014.
The aim is to have two major routes designed for high capacity bike use – north-south and east-west – plus a host of other lanes serving 65 ‘biking neighbourhoods’ throughout the city.
In addition, cyclists will be allowed both ways down one-way streets that have a speed limit of 30km/h, and 1,000 new bicycle parking spots will be built. Ten new entry points will be created for cyclists from the suburbs who want to pedal into the city, because the traffic-clogged Péripherique ring road – the French equivalent of the M25 – is currently a major barrier.
There are also plans for ‘soft’ measures to encourage cycling. ‘Maison du velo’ information points will answer people’s questions about getting around by bike; elementary school pupils will be educated about cycling; city employees will be encouraged to travel by bike (400 bikes are already dedicated for the purpose); and a new ‘Villes Velib’ co-operative will aim to join up the city’s cycle-friendly plans with similar moves in the suburbs.
Looking further ahead to 2020, socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe wants most of the city’s major streets to have bike lanes. “We want bicycles to be a larger part of Paris,” he says. However, the plans, still subject to a vote by the city authorities on 7 June, have received a lukewarm response in some quarters.
“Some of these measures were decided in 2002 and were never put in place,” said Pierre Toulouse, spokesman of Paris-based Mieux se Deplacer a Bicyclette (Better Travel by Bike). “We’re happy to see that a bike plan is finally emerging, but it really lacks ambition,” said Green politician Sylvain Garel, whose party runs the city in a coalition with the Socialists.
The story of the growth of cycling in Paris has been one of great successes mixed with setbacks. Since 2001, cycling levels have doubled and the public hire bikes from the Vélib scheme now account for around 35 percent of all bike trips in central Paris. However, Vélib’s 20,000 bikes have been targeted by thieves and vandals, and recently subscriptions have reportedly dropped. Delanoe is planning a ‘relaunch’ of the Vélib scheme.