27 February 2014

Copenhagenize Reviews the Agenda for the Next Mayor of Paris

Paris Bike Culture - Cycling Sociably

The current mayor of Paris – Bertrand Delanoë – is a living liveable city legend. While at the reins of the city for two terms, he has transformed the French capital in so many positive ways.

You have to love a mayor quoted as saying, "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time".

30 km/h zones, traffic calming and... the Vélib' bike sharing system are all part of his modern legacy.

The number of bicycle users in Paris has increased since the launch of Vélib'. Delanoë, however, is stepping down after the next election. Today we're going to have a critical look at what the frontrunner for the mayoral post in the city, Anne Hildago, is proposing if elected.

She is already in charge of urban planning since Delanoë was elected to his second term. She knows the ropes, so to speak.

In her agenda, Anne Hidalgo has proposed the following:
  • to extend the Vélib' network to the whole metropolitan area.
  • to reduce the car speed limit to 30 km/h, excepted on the main boulevard.
  • to double the number of bicycle users in 10 years.
  • to double the number of bike lanes by creating a north-south lane, a lane on the Champs Elysées, a lane to reach the woods (Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes) and the cities located around Paris, a lane the circumnavigates the city, a lane along the railways, and one along the river.
  • to set up more Vélib' stations and bike parking at museum, train stations and schools.
  • to set up more signs and wayfinding for bicycle users.
  • to redesign the main squares for pedestrians and bicycle users.
  • to launch an e-Vélib' (public electric bike).
All in all, her cycling agenda sticks to the further development of the existing bike share system and the creation of new bicycle infrastructure. Compared to other world cities, the bicycle debate is already way ahead of the curve in Paris.

We like what we read but for a city that has done so much in so little time, what about pushing it just that little bit farther? The world needs leadership. A lot of it sounds like Hildago is focusing on commuting and, perhaps, recreational cycling. What about developing a bicycle culture right there in the neighbourhoods, making space and facilities for cargo bikes, creating safe routes to school, developing bicycle streets as WELL as building bicycle superhighways? Go Paris! We want you to go one step further!

Actually, there are several important and interesting points in this agenda. We obviously approve the development of more bike infrastructure. More bike lanes, especially along the iconic Champs Elysées, can become an interesting and important symbol. (It sure beats THIS vision from the past on that street)

We wonder, however, what KIND of infrastructure will be built? Will they be wide and well separated from the cars? Or will the bicycle users be forced to keep on sharing the lane with the buses? It's interesting to create bike lanes which go through Paris but bicycle users are more interested in reaching the office, the bakery, the school safely every day safely than knowing that Paris can be crossed from East to West. To create the right conditions for cycling, users must know that they can bike everywhere in the city safely and quickly.

And what's all about an e-Vélib'? Do we really want more scooters in a densely-populated city? Cohabitation with regular bikes can be complicated? In the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland - from where we've seen data - accidents including e-bikes have increased. The Dutch authorities are creating a new fast cycle tracks just for e-bikes. Does Paris have enough space to create lanes for bikes AND e-bikes? We doubt it.
Robert Doisneau Traffic

Continuing to develop the bike share system to the whole metropolitan area is interesting. Regarding the size of the area, focusing on combining bike and train stations would seem, to us, to be a better idea.

We can conclude that if Paris really wants to move closer to the paradigm shift, this agenda is fine but it's also rather mild. Where is the creativity of Hildago and of Paris? Where is the world-class infrastructure the Parisians deserve in an increasingly livable city? Does Paris want to become a truly bicycle-friendly city?

Hildago's heart is in the right place, but she needs to take the bicycle more seriously as transport. It's already used by thousands of Parisian families and  employees. We think a more visionary policy is required.

Copenhagen Cycle Chic Goes To Paris


Paul Cooke said...

e-Bikes... shouldn't be a problem if limited to just 15.5 mph like they are in the UK where you have to pedal them as well. It's the fast ones that cause the trouble.


I'm collecting my new folding eBike this afternoon :) Cycle to work scheme is saving me some %30 on it.

lagatta à montréal said...

Yes, public e-bikes would be easier to control, as many people with privately-owned ones illegally modify them to go faster. These must also be "bike-shaped", not the size or shape of scooters.

Basically, the assist should just be to help people with minor disabilities or frailties (arthritis, heart conditions) climb hills.

Paris cycling needs a boost; the modal share doesn't seem to be increasing, from what I've read recently.

Does the text you have written here exist in French? That would be useful to us here in Montréal (Coalition vélo de Montréal).

user1 said...

Recently, there was some scepticism and showing some drawbacks of e-bikes on Copenhagenize, which is not that bad (though in my view, some of the points were exaggerated), but what I see now is anti-e-bike campaigning - the author is discouraging Paris from launching an e-bike share scheme.

(To be specific, whenever I say "e-bike" below, in fact I mean "pedelec" - this is rarely used word, I think).

"Do we really want more scooters in a densely-populated city?"

Petrol scooters are not bad because they go at 25 km/h. They are bad because they often exceed that speed limit (while being heavy), and especially because they make much noise and air pollution. We don't want more scooters - we want more bikes, e-bikes, and - as a consequence - less cars in cities.

"Cohabitation with regular bikes can be complicated?"

If an infrastructure is not good enough both for slower and faster cyclists (including those on e-bikes), it is simply not good enough.

"In the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland - from where we've seen data - accidents including e-bikes have increased. The Dutch authorities are creating a new fast cycle tracks just for e-bikes. Does Paris have enough space to create lanes for bikes AND e-bikes? We doubt it. "

This is not surprising, because those riding faster are statistically more likely to be involved in accidents - no matter if they ride an e-bike or a regular bike. But bikes are not dangerous, and neither are e-bikes. Cars are dangerous - yet almost everyone (including Copenhagenize) says that in 30 km/h zones usually no seperate lanes for cars and bikes are needed for safety.

The Dutch are going to build cycle tracks just for e-bikes, so it seems that they want to promote them. On such tracks you don't have to ride among slower cyclists. If they wanted to slow them down, they'd install speed humps on cycle paths, just like they did with scooters. So, IMO it's better to take inspiration from the Dutch instead of Chineese - don't ban e-cyclists from the roads, but support them.

Anyway, I think that one wouldn't be so much sceptical about e-bikes after riding a regular bike for years in places like this, for example, especially with heavy shopping. I'm surprised that Copenhagenize doesn't see e-bikes as a chance to make cycling attractive for even more people.

P. S. Sorry for my English

Heck Lennon said...

> Does Paris want to become a truly bicycle-friendly city?

Not that much. Don't forget that, unlike NL and DK, France (still?) has automakers, so is uneasy about promoting bicycle riding. What if people stopped buying cars in drove and moved to bikes + public transportation? ;-)

It's beyond me why Paris still hasn't limited entry to motorized vehicles that are really needed (buses, taxis, ambulances, delivery trucks, etc.)

lagatta à montréal said...

Heck, some, but not all, German cities are rather bicycle-friendly, and don't they have a far more flourishing automotive industry?

Munich isn't bad, and it is certainly known for its car production. (I've heard that Stuttgart is sorely lacking, though).

Yes, there is little reason at all for privately-owned cars in Paris. It takes longer to get to just about anywhere and park there than to walk, cycle or use public transport.