making Paris 100% cyclable, a project that divides
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Increase the number of cycle paths, limit car traffic in the center… At the end of October, the Paris City Hall presented a plan to make the capital 100% cycleable by 2026. A 100 million euro project, intended to limit traffic pollution but which divides Parisians.
Since arriving at Paris City Hall in 2014, this has been one of Anne Hidalgo’s priorities: developing the use of bicycles and encouraging Parisians to leave their cars in the garage. Among its main motivations, improving air quality while the city is regularly the victim of pollution peaks, fighting against global warming or reducing noise pollution.
In six years, thanks to an investment plan of 150 million euros, the number of cycle paths has increased tenfold, reaching nearly 1,000 kilometers. In some places, including the banks of the Seine, car traffic has been prohibited and reserved for pedestrians and bicycles.
Since the end of October, the municipality has decided to take the second. By allocating an additional 100 million euros to the development of cycling, Anne Hidalgo hopes to make Paris 100% cyclable by 2026. In total, 52 kilometers of “corona-tracks”, these cycle paths created during the Covid-19 pandemic , will be perpetuated. Some 130 km of secure tracks will also be created and 100,000 secure parking spaces for two-wheelers will also be set up near stations.
Conversely, motorists must face increasingly restrictive measures. After having limited the maximum authorized speed to 30 km / h for cars, the City of Paris now wishes to pedestrianize the center of the capital by prohibiting automobile traffic.
With these measures, the municipality hopes to see the use of the bicycle, which currently represents 5.6% of trips in the capital, ahead of that of the car, used for 9% of trips. The project also allows the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, Socialist Party candidate for the 2022 presidential election, to underline her commitment to the fight against global warming.
Anne Hidalgo’s plan, however, is regularly criticized by some Parisians. Many voices are raised to denounce more frequent traffic jams and a city that has become “impractical” for motorists. France 24 spoke with an urban planner, a taxi driver, a VTC driver, an environmental activist and a sales manager. Divided on the issue, they explain how this project affects their daily lives.
Vincent Cottet, town planner: “Cars are not the future”
Urban planner Vincent Cottet says he is totally in favor of limiting car traffic in Paris. A project, he emphasizes, already implemented in several other capitals, such as London, Sydney or Vancouver.
“People are against the project because they are focusing only on their immediate comfort and their personal situation,” he laments. “But in 2021, we are facing climate change. It is a fact. We must make courageous political choices and move towards more carbon neutral mobility.”
The town planner points to the current congestion on the roads of the capital. “There is too much traffic,” he insists. “The figures show that the majority of trips are made just over a few kilometers. On the ring road, only 30% of trips exceed ten kilometers.”
With the policy implemented by the City of Paris, Vincent Cottet hopes that car traffic will drop drastically. “With less traffic and by using the bicycle, especially the electric bicycle, you can move very easily, with travel speeds that are much more interesting than in a car,” he says.
Above all, he would like to see new modes of travel, better for the environment – such as electric bicycles, scooters but also public transport – to multiply and become more affordable. Vincent Cottet argues that maintaining the roads of Île-de-France costs no less than 100 million euros each year. For the town planner, a large part of this budget could be saved and invested in the development of these modes of transport.
Finally, “limiting the use of the car has other advantages”, he insists. Among them, the decrease in the number of road accidents, the reduction of air pollution and, with it, that of the health problems associated with it. In the end, “the cost to society will be lower,” concludes the town planner.
Émilie Lemoule, Commercial Director: “Meeting clients will be more difficult”
Émilie Lemoule lives in the southern suburbs of the capital. Twice a week, this single mother and sales manager has to travel to Paris to meet clients. If the public transport offer to connect the inner and outer suburbs to the center of Paris is improving, in particular thanks to the vast Grand Paris Express project, Émilie Lemoule admits to being “totally dependent on her car”.
“The journey would take me too long by public transport. It’s just not possible,” she says. Especially since each trip, she has to meet two or three clients in totally different places in the capital.
If she admits that “Paris is super polluted” and that for the environment, this project “could be good”, the multiplication of cycle paths and pedestrian areas is above all worrying. “I’m afraid of finding myself spending a monstrous amount of time in my car,” stuck in the traffic jams caused by all these changes, she explains.
“In this job, it would be really complicated to get around by bike or scooter,” she continues. “We are always very busy. We have the computer, we have the files … We have everything with us.”
For Émilie Lemoule, leaving your car in the garage should necessarily go through a reorganization of the way you work. “Maybe we will have to organize some of our meetings on [la plateforme de visioconférence] Teams rather than in person, for example. It will still be very complicated. “
Karim, taxi driver: “I think it can work”
Karim has been walking the streets of the capital with his taxi for over ten years. Rather in favor of Anne Hidalgo’s plan, he would however like an improvement in the cohabitation between motorists and cyclists. “Today is anarchy,” he warns.
Over the past six years, he has seen the number of people riding bicycles skyrocket. And even more since the fall of 2019, when the strikes, which had shut down public transport, then the Covid-19 crisis, prompted many Parisians to adopt this mode of transport.
On a recent trip to Vienna, he saw how cyclists and motorists can coexist on the roads, “and it’s going very well,” he explains. “But cycle paths must be made safe and cyclists must obey the Highway Code.”
Since the coming to power of Anne Hidalgo, Karim also admits having seen car traffic intensify in some places. “It penalizes us because it makes us take more detours,” he admits. “A journey may take a little longer and be a little more complicated than before.” But he admits not to be pitied: taxis are exempt from driving bans and are allowed to use bus routes, such as freight transport and ambulances.
“It won’t have a big impact on our business,” he continues. “In our agreement, it is provided that we charge for travel time if we drive less than 30 km / h. Above 30 km / h, we charge by the kilometer.”
Brahim Ben Ali, VTC driver: “It’s a killing for the profession”
Since 2016, Brahim Ben Ali has worked in the capital as a private driver. On October 20, a few days before Anne Hidalgo presented her plan for “a 100% cycle-friendly Paris”, he and a hundred colleagues demonstrated in front of the town hall to denounce an “unfair treatment” of his profession and to ring the bell alarm. “It is a killing of the drivers of VTC”, he assures.
The reason for his anger: unlike taxis, VTC drivers are not allowed to take the bus lines or drive in the new traffic-free zones. “Taxis have no problem because Anne Hidalgo keeps saying that they are affiliated with the public service. But we do not count,” he laments.
“For customers, it is more interesting to take a taxi that uses the bus lanes than a VTC that will spend 45 minutes in traffic jams.”
For Brahim Ben Ali, who claims to work around 80 hours a week for a monthly salary of around 1,500 euros, these arrangements are thus a new blow to his profession, already undermined by the lowering of the authorized speed to 30 km / h. “We used to do about fifteen races a day. Now it’s ten,” he explains.
“Some of us are considering moving from Paris or stopping the activity,” he concludes, announcing a new demonstration on November 24th.
Tony Renucci, environmental activist: “Making the air breathable”
“It will be interesting if there is really a substitution of certain journeys made today by car by journeys by bicycle”, estimates Tony Renucci, head of the association Respire, specializing in the fight against air pollution. ‘air.
According to Airparif, the air quality observatory in Île-de-France, automobile traffic is responsible for 65% of ozone pollution (NO2). For fine particle pollution, the figure rises to 35%.
If it is difficult to estimate the real benefit of Anne Hidalgo’s policy, the organization recorded in 2021 a 20% drop in pollutant emissions during the Car Free Day, organized each year in Paris.
“The strategy today is all the same to create congestion to discourage the use of the car in Paris”, assures Tony Renucci. “It will have a positive effect on the air quality.”
This article was translated from English by Cyrielle Cabot. The original can be found here.
making Paris 100% cyclable, a project that divides
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