We arrived in Paris via the Paris East train station. Emerging from the station you are immediately greeted with a huge Velib kiosk, as well as plenty of noisy scooter and car traffic. Bike lanes are not that easy to spot but there are bikes everywhere mixed in with the chaos on the roads. Travelling to the hotel by taxi we were both more than a little concerned what cycling in Paris might be like.
As it turned out, there was no need to worry.
|Large Velib kiosk outside our hotel.|
This led us into some very exciting places! Like giant roundabouts, like the Bastille below...
|Take a deep breath and don't look behind you!|
Perhaps the old lady on an equally old Gazelle, riding quite slowly, and munching on a baguette (for real!) who just rolled right past us and into the chaos without any hesitation helps illuminate how Parisien cyclists handle traffic. That is to say, cyclists ride where they want and automobiles simply navigate around them with ease. No honking horns. No yelling out windows. Just get on with it.
|Painted sharrows on skinny roads is the norm.|
The streets above and below are perfect examples of what a lot of the Paris bike network looks like. Roads so skinny only one vehicle can use it at a time. When cars approached from behind, the Calgarian in me instantly tensed up waiting for the revving engine or a honking horn - which never came. It took more than a couple instances of this happening before I relaxed, realizing that drivers were ok with slowly following us until an opportunity to pass presented itself. When riding "the wrong way" down one-ways in Paris, which was encouraged with sharrows you see below and with signage indicating bikes were allowed, approaching cars would slow, sometimes stop, and pull over a little so we could keep our momentum.
|Would you feel comfortable on bike infrastructure like this? Note the approaching van too.|
|Bike bowling for shoppers!|
|Sharrows, sharrows everywhere.|
|Cobbles, cobbles, everywhere!|
Motorists (including the neverending swarms of scooterati), bus drivers, and taxi operators all offered up more respect than I have ever experienced astride a bike anywhere in Canada. The traffic chaos was overwhelming to be sure but never really felt dangerous. No one ever "buzzed" us intentionally, no one ever honked aggresively, and no one ever made us feel like we were in danger. Honestly, I feel more scared riding along 17th Ave SW than I did anywhere in Paris.
Also quite interesting to experience was bike infrastructure that was basically squeezed into every nook and cranny of Paris. Much of it was narrow, lots of it was just sharrows, but it worked. I've come away with the impression that "lack of space" - often cited as a reason why we can't put a bikelane here or there - is a bullshit excuse to not install more bike infrastructure in Calgary. Our roads are so big this excuse simply does not pass the stink test anymore.
So, City of Calgary Transportation department, the City bike office, and all you Alderfolk - what are you waiting for? Calgarians deserve more than traffic jams and 5-lane one-way roads. Calgarians need safe places to cycle, free from aggressive, anti-social motorists. Calgarians deserve transportation options that are cheap, easy, and fast.
Stop dithering. Get on with it.