For cyclists in Paris, the last few years have been nothing short of revelatory. New protected bike lanes have led to a doubling, and even tripling, of the number of riders on some busy main roads. The Champs Elysées is lined with segregated cycling lanes, and more residents of the greater Paris region cycle today than take the busiest line of the city’s Metro. Since 2016, the left bank of the Seine River has been free of motor traffic, creating a new public gathering spot where, CityMetric writes, “cyclists mix with boozy sunbathers, tourists on electric scooters, and giggling children.”
Paris’s great success in improving cycling will be one of the lasting legacies of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has relentlessly pushed bike infrastructure, often to the displeasure of drivers and local officials, as part of her pledge to reduce emissions and make the city a cycling capital. Hidalgo’s efforts have also set an example that U.S. cities should follow: Think big, and don’t be afraid to talk about climate change and transportation.
As the climate crisis and increased traffic congestion raise questions about land use, transit policy, and our car-first views of urban living, improved cycling access offers a potential means of addressing these problems. And few urban leaders have been as successful as Hidalgo at overseeing concrete change.
“What we’ve undertaken is a whole program of adaptation, of putting nature back in this city,” Hidalgo told the New York Times. “We’re trying to build this around the individual. But change is difficult.” She added, “We can’t live as before. There’s been an acceleration in climate change.”
In a single year, from September 2018 to 2019, the number of Parisians using bikes rose 54 percent, according to the Paris mayor’s office. It’s “the culmination of years of growing restrictions on cars, the introduction of bike-sharing services, and most recently the construction of bike lanes across the French capital,” said journalist François Picard, the host of “The Debate” on the Paris-based TV channel France 24. That’s not all. The buildout of space for bikes in the City of Light has contributed to a 5 percent drop in car trips since 2010. In Paris and its surrounding Île-de-France region, cyclists now take 840,000 trips per day, more than motorcycles or scooters. Paris leapt from 13th place in 2017 to 8th in 2019 on Wired’s list of the 20 most bike-friendly cities in the world.
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