Saturday, March 24, 2007

La ville des bicyclettes

Now this is cool. The interesting thing about living in Paris (especially for an American from somewhere other than New York City or maybe Boston) is just how small the city is. It's a long walk to go from my old haunts down in the Marais out to my apartment in the hinterlands of the dix-septième arrondissement, but it was walkable and I did it occasionally. Of course, generally I would take the Metro and at night I would take a taxi, costing about 60 to 70 FF (around $10).

But that's because the streets were insane and especially at night it would have been quite dangerous to ride a bicycle around the city. Thinking back on it, I can't remember seeing a bicycle on the streets of the city outside of the final circuit race stage of the Tour de France. But that's because there is no space allocated for bikes on the streets. Reducing the population of cars and giving over space to bikes (not to mention raising the visibility of bikes and making the enforcement of motor safety laws aimed at protecting bicycle traffic) would do a lot to eliminate that problem.

I think that this is a really interesting statement: "A recent study analyzed different trips in the city 'with a car, bike, taxi and walking, and the bikes were always the fastest.'" It makes sense: in a dense urban environment, the ability of a bicycle to react to changing conditions and integrate more easily with the city, as well as the lower density of vehicles on the road, should lead to a much greater efficiency in traffic flow.

I think that this will be a really great addition to the city, a transforming addition. Assuming that it takes (and I think it will: it will let the French both be cheap and have something else to lord over fat lazy Americans, so what's not to like?), then 10 years from today, the city will be pretty profoundly transformed: much less traffic congestion, much less pollution, especially in the hot summer months when the Seine valley can become quite still and impacted, and quieter. It should be lovely. A very good move.

Now to convince my wife that we need to move back to Paris.

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