Sharing public space is a new notion in Toulouse, France, where pedestrian areas and cycling zones are being developed. Coexistence between these two groups is not always peaceful, and citizens believe the situation could potentially deteriorate further.
Everyone in the world is, will be, or has once been, an automobilist, cyclist, or pedestrian - sometimes all three during the course of one day. And yet, it is only necessary to take on one of these roles to forget that one was another, perhaps only a few minutes before. In the street, the enemy (or rather the one who prevents you from getting around) is always the other. And road signage doesn’t always help matters.
In downtown Toulouse, where the concept of pedestrian areas is flourishing, the tension between bikes and pedestrians tends to escalate quickly. “Here, we are discovering how to share space,” confirms Sébastien Bosvieux, the president of the association Deux Pieds, Deux Roues (Two Feet, Two Wheels).
“There are not large security issues on Alsace-Lorraine Street or Pargaminières Street for the moment, but relations between cyclists and pedestrians are strained. As cyclists want to travel at their own pace, and pedestrians tend to roam wherever they please, the solution is not evident. All of a sudden, a situation can arise where there is apprehension, discomfort, even the feeling of being unsafe.”
Imagine 4,961 bikes in the middle of 154,664 pedestrians on a Saturday afternoon between Esquirol and Charles de Gaulle Square, and you will have an idea of the problem to be resolved. “One gets around less and less efficiently these days, even as a pedestrian, and roads have gotten even more aggressive,” complains a business owner. “This is due in part to cyclists, with the special rules of the road that we have given to them.” But are cyclists really the new delinquents?
“People need to learn how to cycle around other people, as they do in Scandinavian countries,” assuages Sébastien Bosvieux. “I think that it would be a bad idea to create a designated bike lane on Alsace-Lorraine Street. Cyclists would feel more entitled and would ride more quickly, and pedestrians would still cross the street erratically. We especially see this on the bridge Pont Neuf.”
Even without a designated cycling space within pedestrian zones, it does not hurt to come back to the fundamentals. “Riding a bike on the sidewalk is forbidden,” reiterates Sébastien Bosvieux. “The sidewalk needs to remain a refuge for pedestrians,” just as a bike path should (theoretically) never be blocked by pedestrians or cars. “There will always be people who do whatever they want,” he notes. “There will always be those crazy people.” The solution? Without a doubt the age-old recipe for living together: respect and courtesy.
How can pedestrians and cyclists learn to better share the road? Would designated bike lanes be more useful than combined pedestrian/cyclist zones? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.