How bike-friendly is the French metropolis really?
Paris is the city of love, the city of lights... and if the mayor Anne Hidalgo has her way, the French capital should also become the the city of the bicycle.
1. From asphalt hell to green bicycle city
For all those who have ever been brave enough to fight their way from A to B by bike in Paris, this may sound like a bad joke at first. For a long time, Paris was an asphalt hell for vulnerable members of traffic; anyone traveling by bike had to be content with the "death lanes" of the buses and simply hope for the best.
But a lot has happened in recent years and Paris is slowly but surely becoming a vibrant heart of the cycling culture. Not only because of the annual Tour de France finale on the Champs-Elysees. Which, by the way, becomes a car-free zonea as part of the program "Paris Respire" (Paris breathes), together with the Canal St. Martin and a few other main arteries on holidays and the first Sunday of the month.
2. First progress
Parisian politicians have really stepped on the gas: Almost everywhere in the city, drivers are subject to a 30 km/h speed limit, and the right bank of the Seine has been completely closed to motor traffic since 2017 and has since belonged to walkers, strollers and cyclists. The city has learned a lot from the pandemic: on Rue Rivoli, which runs through important parts of the center, two-thirds of the lanes have been dedicated exclusively to cyclists. An initially temporary measure against smog in the traffic-calmed city during the lockdown phases, it was eventually retained.
But it doesn't stop there... In recent years, over 1,000 km of bike lanes have been built in the city, mostly separated from car lanes by asphalt thresholds or (admittedly rather ugly) yellow bollards, and the Vélib bikesharing network has completely permeated the cityscape. Parisians:inside can rent and return bikes at any time at more than 1,800 stations, which are on average only 300m apart. Both normal and e-bikes are available. What is particularly ingenious about Vélib, however, is that the subscription costs a.) only a few euros per month and b.) can be loaded onto the Paris metro card.
Thanks to Vélib, you can access the city's entire public transport system with just one card, and all routes can be covered quickly and easily by bus, train and bike .
You can see right away that this works. The green and blue bikes of the fleet race through town everywhere and even if they are admittedly not always perfectly maintained and the motor on the e-bikes is a bit sluggish, they have become an incredibly uncomplicated and natural means of transport for the Parisians.
But even those who prefer to ride their own bike are actively encouraged to cycle: the city grants a subsidy of up to 100 euros for the purchase of a mechanic bike, and between 500 and 600 euros for e-bikes. And employers often cover the costs completely.
3. Parisians cycle
Oh yes. After the first lockdown, the number of cyclists had increased by 67% compared to 2019, and in the following year this number increased again by 78%. Paris has also become the capital of "vélotaf," according to data from Strava: Nowhere else in France do people cycle to and from work so often . It's no coincidence that the bicycle has now become the nation's best-selling mode of transport. At 43%, it leads the list long before electric scooters (26.5%) and cars (26%).
So yes, Parisians do cycle, but despite growing infrastructures designed especially for them, accidents are on the increase. However, this is not only due to the increasing number of cyclists, but above all to their driving behavior.
Even if cycling has become easier and more attractive - it is still a test for the nerves.
The people of Paris have little regard for the "code de la route," the traffic regulations. At breathtaking speed, they meander past pedestrians and in between cars en masse, they run every single red light, and consider crosswalks to be urban decoration. So the city is trying to get tougher and tougher and is increasing traffic controls and, for some years now, has also banned the use of headphones on the bike in order to increase attention in traffic.
4. Le Plan Vélo: A 100% cycable city by 2026
Anne Hidalgo remains ambitious in her mission to make Paris a green city of the future. By the time of the Olympic Games in the summer of 2024, the city is to have an additional 55 km of bike paths, and all Olympic sites are to be connected by them. The Vélib fleet is to be increased by 3000 bikes and the car-free zones expanded. For the "plan vélo 2021-2026", the city is spending 250 million euros to become 100% bike-friendly by 2026.
An ambitious undertaking and an expensive one at that, but the efforts made so far are already rewarding.
Copenhagen is still the most bike-friendly city in the world. But Paris shows innovative and bold solutions and opportunities for transformation in one of the world's largest and most congested urban centers, and can thus become an important role model for many other cities.
Whether you're in Copenhagen, Freiburg, Paris or a less bike-friendly city, take this article as an incentive to get on your bike - because a city only becomes a bicycle cityif we make it one too. So get on your bike at bike and if you're still looking for the right one for you, then take a look at buycycle and have a look. If you have any questions about Paris bike policy or cycling in general, you can find help on our blog or you can contact our support. Until then, we wish you: Happy browsing, happy cycling!