Paris Unveils Four-Year Cycling Plan With Aim to Reinforce Velib' Bike Share

» Two major axes will service 65 “biking neighborhoods” throughout the city. Dedicated bike lanes will increase from 273 miles today to 435 miles by 2014.

If Velib’ has changed the face of Paris by providing it the largest bike sharing system in the world with 1,800 stations and more than 20,000 bikes, there’s still plenty of work to be done in the French capital. After nine years of slow but steady improvements originating from an environmentally minded city hall, Paris is about to hit the accelerator pedal.

The new plan, to be presented in early June to the city council, where it is virtually guaranteed passage, will increase the number of bike lanes within this 40.7 square mile city from 273 miles today (most built since 2001) to 435 miles in 2014. Two major axes — one running east-west from the Bois de Vincennes to the Bois de Boulogne and the other north-south, will be designed for heavy traffic. One thousand new bike parking spaces will be added to the city’s streets every year, and bike boxes, allowing cyclists to get priority treatment at intersections, will be painted in across the city. Connections to the suburbs will be reinforced through the reconstruction of ten city “gates.” And starting this July, 65 neighborhoods, making up about half the city’s land area, will be converted to prioritize biking, with two-way travel allowed even on streets reserved for one-way car traffic.

By 2020, most of the city’s major streets will have dedicated bike lanes and the network will begin to extend out into the near suburbs.

Paris’ project, led by Mayor Bertrand Delanöe, is not revolutionary in concept — most of what is being done has been done in parts of the city before — but rather in scale. The sheer size of the city’s investments, which will bring bike infrastructure within feet of all of the city’s residents, is likely to continue the increase in the mode share of alternative transportation.

And the city is developing a social strategy to encourage cycling even more. A “maison du vélo” will welcome inhabitants who have questions specifically about getting around by bike; kids in elementary school will be exposed to cycling in tours and classes; the city’s employees will be encouraged to make their trips by bike, with 400 vehicles already dedicated for the purpose; and a new Villes Velib’ cooperative will encourage a dialogue between Paris and its suburban peers in an attempt to integrate the region by bike.

Paris’ Sunday street program, which has already resulted in the closing of several neighborhoods to motorized traffic on Sundays and holidays, is planned to be generalized throughout the “biking neighborhoods,” where maximum travel speeds of 19 mph will be enforced. Parks, some of which had been closed to cyclists, are now all open to bike travel.

There is no guaranteed way to increase the number of people using bicycles and other low-impact transportation modes in a city. But the wholehearted embrace of the mode through a dedicated plan for infrastructure that prioritizes bicycles, funded and guaranteed by a focused city council, is sure to encourage it. Now that American cities have begun to follow Paris with similar bike sharing programs, we need to see similar initiatives here.

Image above: Paris Bike Plan, from Ville de Paris

15 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Philip

    Conspicuously lacking: A bike route to the main business district La Défense, as well as a biking infrastructure over there. The main bridge leading there, the pont de Neuilly, is still inaccesible for cyclists, and although there is a vague notion of doing something in the 2020 timeframe, this would need some priority to get people commuting.
    Still though, the change of attitude of the local government and population (including Parisian drivers) over the last years remains remarkable.

  • Tom West

    I’m fairly certain the speed limit is 30km/hr, not 19mph (which is 30.55km/hr). Please use the actual units the law mandates, with rough equivilants if needed.

    • Woody

      Interesting notion. I always appreciate the site’s coverage of transportation issues worldwide, and the input from other readers in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Canada. But I still assume that probably a majority of readers are in the US, where we almost always ‘think’ in miles and where kilometers are foreign to most of us. Should we be required to stop and do our own mental calculations and approximations? Just how important is the difference between 30 kph and 30.55 kph anyway?

      I do favor seeing the US change to the metric system. But until then, it’s the writer’s job to make the article easily understood by most readers.

    • trainsintokyo

      What’s 0.55km/hr between friends?

  • By bike space, do you mean bike parking space?

  • Interesting article! I don’t mean to nitpick, but could you please include the original metric? Most of us can’t visualize Imperial measurements…

    • Woody

      Roughly, a kilometer is about 2/3rds of a mile, and a mile is 1.5 kilometers. So 2/3 of 30 kilometers is about 20 miles, and 1 1/2 X 20 miles is 30 kilometers. It’s almost easy. You, too, can be ‘bilingual’ and understand both metric and imperial measurements of distance.

      If we were talking about teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, pints, quarts, gallons, god help us — we’d need the metric equivalents for sure.

      But if you really can’t convert kilometers to miles and vice versa, I’m not sure you should be allowed to drive in the US or that Americans should be allowed to rent a car in Europe with the ‘International Drivers License.”

      • I’ve driven numerous times in Canada (BC is a favorite place for us to visit, and only a day’s drive from Portland). and have no problem dealing with kilometers.

        Your mileage, of course, may vary. :)

  • Philip

    Tom West: Do you think Parisian motorists would care about rounding errors on the speed limit? :-)

    Also, after a closer reading of the plan, it still appears that the municipality sees biking as a leisure activity, not a means of day-to-day transport. The idea is to lead cyclists through quieter streets, and away from the main traffic arteries, which can lead to inconvenient detours. Also putting the focus on recreational routes, and creating a main East-West axis as a connection between parks rather than between residential and working areas seems a bit odd.

  • Andrew

    Fantastic, but, as always with Paris, one of the most socio economically divided cities in Europe:

    what about the suburbs? the downtown core (which, logically, seems to be the focus of the plan) is already better served by a fantastic public transport system. Have they talked about bike infrastructure for the banlieue? easy bike transport on the RER, etc?

    • The Velib’ bike share system already extends into all of the suburbs directly abutting Paris, though some legal issues prevent it from going any further. Nonetheless, the city only has control over itself, clearly. But several of the surrounding cities have been building bike lanes connected to those in Paris. But easy bike transport on the RER is a long way off as far as I can tell.

    • The RER A is the Western world’s busiest train. It has no space for bikes.

  • I think that if this can offer an alternative to people who drive to work, and will cut down on the amount of cars and pollutants, then this is a great investment.

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