Bicycles now have priority on Rue de Rivoli. Photo: Chabe01via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Paris is seeking to rely more on cycle lanes in the future. Climate change is not the only thing that has had an effect on transport planning, with the coronavirus pandemic accelerating change here, too. Automotive traffic has dropped strongly in places where virus containment measures have been strict. Steps are now being taken everywhere to reopen, which begs the question: which changes to individual transport, such as those favouring bicycle traffic, should be retained? In Paris, for example, the hierarchy on the Rue de Rivoli shopping street was turned abruptly on its head. Before the pandemic, there once stood one lane for buses and emergency vehicles and another two lanes for vehicular traffic. Since last September, bicycles and scooters have enjoyed right of way over cars, which now only have one lane available to them. A report from swiss-architects says that Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris who has been waging a battle against cars and air pollution for a while now, is not changing direction. Her plans for an extensive ban on automotive through traffic in the centre of Paris recently went public. In the future, the only vehicular traffic allowed will be local residents, vehicles supplying goods and services and tourists travelling to hotels. The planned restrictions are intended to keep roughly 55% of the total traffic – which consists of more than 100,000 vehicles per day – out of the city centre.

Hidalgo was re-elected in June 2020 for another six years and leads a coalition of the Green and Socialist Parties. She is doggedly pursuing the policies initially devised by her predecessor, Bertrand Belanoë, whose extensive restrictions on car traffic on both banks of the Seine clearly demonstrated his chosen direction. These restrictions appear to match the desires of the French capital’s residents, with surveys showing that only one-third of Parisians own a car. The government is also putting great efforts into promoting alternative means of transport with subsidies for buying e-bikes and free metro rides for under-18s since last September. Despite the latter, the bicycle seems to be gradually catching up with the metro. The plans are slated to be implemented in 2022, with a zone set up roughly around the Île de la Cité island in the Seine and the first four arrondissements whilst also encompassing parts of the fifth, sixth and seventh arrondissements.

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