Last month, a record-breaking 546 km of gridlocked cars were recorded in the Paris region by the real-time traffic tracking website Sytadin.
And this was supposed to be the ‘Year of the Bike.’
We are now halfway through Anne Hidalgo’s ambitious ‘Bike Plan‘, yet the Paris Mayor’s vision for the capital to become the world’s most cycle-friendly city by 2020 is drastically behind schedule. According to the Bike Plan Observatory, run by cycling charity Paris en Selle, only 5% of the planned infrastructural changes have been made.
‘Paris being number one in 2020? It won’t happen,’ says Clotilde Imbert, head of the French branch of bicycle urbanism specialists Copenhagenize. ‘This year they have tried to build bicycle infrastructure, but not in a coherent way. It needs to be intuitive and comprehensive, with separate cycle tracks. They have to make it more complicated for drivers, and prioritise cyclists.’
Despite Hidalgo’s best efforts, Paris is a lowly 13th in the rankings of cycle-friendly cities, according to Copenhagenize.
Even the changes that have been made, such as the cycle-lane skirting the right side of the Seine that opened on September 30th, have not been well received. Both cyclists and drivers feel the ‘Bike Plan’ has been badly mismanaged.
While Paris en Selle are ‘completely behind’ the Plan, according to spokesperson Simon Labouret, he says that they have been disappointed by the lack of progress: ‘Cyclists still don’t feel safe on the streets of Paris,’ he adds, ‘the infrastructure is wholly deficient.’
The development of the new cycle routes ‘has been sudden, brutal, and anarchic,’ says Yves Carra, spokesperson at the Automobile Club Association. He uses a car, a moped, a kick scooter, public transport, and a bike, he says, ‘but deciding everyone has to go by bike is dictatorial.’
‘Instead of giving you a tap on the shoulder to say, “let’s make some room for the cyclists,” they punch you right in the gut,’ he adds, ‘the ‘autophobia’ is completely uncalled for.’
‘If car drivers complain a lot,’ Ms Imbert says, ‘it’s probably a good sign.’
‘When they see cyclists having a pleasant daily trip along the river they will maybe think about the fact that it’s stupid to be stuck in a car, they may even reconsider cycling as an option.’