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05.05.2020 Europe

Cyclists inherit 50km of post-lockdown Paris as Hidalgo greases wheel of change

By RFI with Amanda Morrow
REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes
LISTEN MAY 5, 2020
REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes

As Parisians get set for the 11 May reawakening, when they'll be allowed to roam free without consent forms, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has revealed the extent of her affinity for bikes – gifting 50 kilometres of lanes usually reserved for cars to the city's post-lockdown cyclists.

“It is out of the question that we allow ourselves to be invaded by vehicles,” she told daily newspaper Le Parisien on Tuesday. “Pollution combined with coronavirus is a dangerous cocktail.”

Major routes such as the famous rue de Rivoli, which cuts east to west through Paris along the Seine; the Boulevard Saint-Michel, which runs north-to-south through the Latin Quarter; and the Étoile tunnel, which passes beneath the Arc de Triomphe, will mostly be the preserve of cyclists.

From day one of the “déconfinement”, the section of rue de Rivoli between the Bastille monument (where it begins as rue Saint Antoine) and rue des Archives will be off limits to the usual buzz of motorised traffic. However access to the bus corridor, which is also open to taxis, will be extended to traders and health professionals. 

Traffic will also be completely closed at the Louvre ticket offices, in the centre, while vehicle closures along the rest of rue de Rivoli, stretching from the Hotel de Ville and the often-congested Place de la Concorde, will happen a little later on.

Dedicated cycle paths are also to be opened up along the routes that follow Paris's busiest metro lines: 1, 4 and 13.

Green light for pedestrians
Other post-lockdown measures include opening up an additional 30 streets to pedestrians – mainly around major transport hubs such Les Halles and Montparnasse – and doubling the number of car parking spaces at the gates of Paris for motorists who work in the capital but live in the suburbs.

"These 2,000 places in 30 parks will be free for Navigo travel pass holders,” Hidalgo said, adding that discussions were underway to open part of the exhibition centre at Porte de Versailles, which would bring the number of available parking places to 3,000. 

Pavements will be widened by removing car parking lanes on streets such as the rue des Batignolles, rue du Poteau, rue des Abbesses and the rue du Temple – among others – while a request has been made to ramp up the number of city buses.

While these measures are intended to be temporary, the mayor has not ruled out making them permanent if they prove successful. It will be up to Parisians to decide which ones work best, Hidalgo says, adding that most Parisians – after seven weeks of confinement – do not want to see a return of cars and pollution. 

Most city folk "will shun public transport"
Meanwhile a study commissioned by Cyclofix, a repair company for electric bikes and scooters, found that almost a third of French people (29 percent) intend to adopt a sustainable means of transport after 11 May. Just over 12 percent of those intend to cycle, while almost 17 percent will walk. 

In French cities, the use of public transport will plummet by 63 percent, while the use of cars and motorised two-wheelers will be down 11 percent. The study was conducted by the Happydemics polling platform between 21 and 24 April on a sample of 1,329 French people.

Capital still a virus "red zone"
France's exit from lockdown is a gradual process that's being managed according to an area's risk. Paris is one of dozens of departments in the government's “red zone” according to a map that is updated daily by health authorities.

This means the resumption of normal life in the capital is still some way off, with the reopening of parks and gardens still under discussion. Hidalgo says she wants them to become places for “walking and breathing” but that a counting system would determine their accessibility. Play areas are to remain closed.

Parisian hospitals have been overcrowded for some time, with public health figures on Monday showing 2,155 Covid-19 patients are still hospitalised.

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