More parking spots for bikes, new bike paths on major streets, extension of zones with 30km/h speed limits, and perhaps wider bike paths or the prohibition of cars at temporary markets. These are just some of the measures that are a part of the new “Bike Plan” put forth by the Mayor of Paris. The draft, which should be finalized in the beginning of December after being fully discussed, was presented on Tuesday, September 16th. An engineer presented the draft during a meeting of the “bike committee” of the 11th district of Paris, which took place under the gilded ceilings of the district’s city hall.
“We are still in the stage where we are considering the overall principles of the draft,” specifies a council worker. It only presents the broadest outlines of the plan, promised during the municipal election campaign by the majority of PS-ecologists. Paris, where the number of trips made on bikes has tripled since 2001, has made it a goal to have 15% of the city’s commutes made on bike by 2020, compared with 3% at the time of the last census. The question becomes: Could Paris really become a capital of biking?
Parking one’s bike, preferably in a place that is sheltered from bad weather and vandalism, is a constant preoccupation of Parisian cyclists. The city just wants to “adjust the placement of existing bike racks, increase the number of spaces offered, install adequate fixtures on the street and determine the areas of the city that are over or under-used.” In fact, specifies the technician, “cyclists are lazy and often tend to park as close as possible to their destination.” Better to install a small number of bike spaces at each intersection rather than a long stretch of them every 300 meters. A series of “magnet spaces,” such as museums, libraries, recreation centers, grocery stores, and even schools, could benefit from having more spots for bikes.
Several parks that will be secured with a lock will be created along public roads, just as they have been already been created in cities in the north of Europe and in Dijon and Lyon. Christophe Najdovski, the deputy in charge of transportation and the ecologist candidate in March’s municipal elections, particularly supports the project. But, as a city engineer states, “the difficulty will be in finding enough space to put these bike stations.” Apparently, encroaching on traffic lanes or parking spots for cars is not in the plans, except for in a few select locations. So, the city envisions closing several tunnels on the roads, like the one at Avenue du Maine. The tunnels will then be transformed into secured bike parking lots.
Rebuilding the Parisian Network
The network of bike paths needs to be rebuilt. The axes that were redone long ago, like those around Boulevard du Magenta, the Barbès intersection, and the Maréchaux boulevards south of the capital will be repaved. “In certain places, for architectural reasons, the bike path and the sidewalk are the same color,” laments the city’s engineer. The paths along Boulevard Bourdon, on the docks of the Port of Paris, and at the Bastille could use to be reconfigured. At present, the paths are often “neutralized” during several weeks of the year in order to set up temporary events, like antique shows.
Several main axes, such as Boulevard Saint-Michel, Avenue de la République, or Boulevard Voltaire, will be lined with bike paths. The city continuously asks itself what type of path it should favor. Simply painting in bike paths on the road is the cheapest option, but with that option, one often finds that cars will double park in the bike lane. Developing paths on the sidewalk tends to bring up the question of “conflicts of use” with pedestrians. Putting in a raised divider is not always accepted by the firefighters. Finally, the creation of a path on an “enlarged sidewalk” that takes space away from cars, the solution that most cycling associations prefer, presents a “very high” cost, according to the city.
The Architect’s Eye
The plans are also being surveyed attentively by France’s architects, supercilious guardians of the capital’s esthetic. The eventual creation of a bike path on the Champs-Élysées would therefore be particularly scrutinized. The architects also show themselves to be very sensitive about the “symmetry” of the main avenues of the city. On a sloping road, having a simple path in the descending direction and a more structurally divided path on the other would not be worth even considering.
The project, which equally includes measures to encourage cyclo-tourism in the capital and to renew funding for electric bikes, must go through two evaluations. In the upcoming weeks, it must be presented to each of the twenty districts’ councils. It must also fit within the allotted budget. The socialist majority consecrated a sum of twenty five million euros to cycling for the years 2008-2014. This sum was declared “paltry” by M. Najdovski during his campaign. For a measure of comparison, during the same period of time the Nantes metropolitan area (comprised of 600,000 inhabitants) consecrated forty million euros to bike infrastructure.
The several militant cyclists who helped present the plan on the 16th of September remain skeptical. “If we really want 15% of the city’s transportation to be cycling by 2020, we have to give them space,” protested Kiki Lambert, from the association Mieux se Déplacer à Bicyclette. “It needs to be more a plan of transition than a strategy of completely breaking the status quo,” corroborates Pierre Japhet, deputy (Green Party) of transports in the office of the 11th district mayor.
What plans does your city have to improve bike infrastructure? What obstacles do proponents of new infrastructure face?
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.