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Paris, France: Au revoir, traffic jams!

Paris is becoming a bike-friendly city and is planning to make it easy for people to leave their cars at home. The Audet family now travels only by bike – they have no fewer than five Riese & Müller bikes.

Vincent Audet (3rd from right) and family in Paris. Photo: © Vincent Audet

Bonjour Vincent, that's a very nice photo of you in front of the Palace of Versailles. The family gets around on five Riese & Müller bikes – who started it?
Our daughter Margaux. She bought a Homage in 2020 when she was visiting us. She usually borrows one of our bikes, but this time we needed them ourselves. She lives in South Africa and thinks that there are far too many traffic jams here in Paris.

 

And yet many cities are now looking enviously at Paris – a lot has happened here in the past two years in terms of cycling infrastructure.
Yes, the city has made a lot of progress. Many of the "corona lanes" that were quickly set up during the first lockdown have now become permanent, safe cycle lanes. Nine routes called "RER Vélo" are currently being built along the north-south and east-west axes totalling 680 kilometres. Traffic lights are also now synchronised to average bike speeds on some of Paris' main routes.

 

As a consequence, many Parisians are switching from public transport and cars to bikes. Are there any other incentives?
Environmental awareness, saving time and exercise are, of course, also factors. Several French companies have also made E-Bike pools available to their employees and there are many support schemes to help people purchase an E-Bike.

 

What is the biggest benefit to you of cycling in Paris?
The fact that you know exactly how long it will take to reach any point in the city. An example: my neighbour spends a good hour and a half in the morning driving through congested traffic to get to work near the Arc de Triomphe. It takes me just 18 minutes to cover the same distance by bike. And cycling also means that I am outdoors, and when I cycle through the Bois de Boulogne park, I always see rabbits and foxes there. And I keep away from cars and their exhaust fumes.

 

How do road users get along with each other when there are more cyclists out there?
Parisian car drivers generally have a bad reputation. But their behaviour towards cyclists has changed a lot. They have become more respectful. Bikes now outnumber cars at times in some districts of Paris! But clearly there is still room for improvement as far as mutual respect between all road users is concerned.

Where can the infrastructure still be improved?
There is a lack of secure parking for bikes in the city centre and at railway stations. Bike parking facilities in Paris are quickly growing in number, but the fear of having your bicycle stolen is still an obstacle for many Parisians.

 

Back to the family bikes – who rides which model?
My wife Martine rides a Homage and I ride a Superdelite – both are HS versions with Rohloff gear. Our son Alexandre has a Load 75 HS, which we recently gave him on the birth of his third child, and his wife Fanny rides a Load 60. Both are also with Rohloff gears. And Margaux, as I said, also has a Homage.

 

How do you use the bikes on a daily basis?
Martine and I use them for every trip we make in Paris – for shopping, theatre visits and several times a week for a coffee at the Palace of Versailles. My son, who lives in Lille, always uses the Load to take his children to school and kindergarten and to do the weekly shopping. He is a doctor and even rides his E-Bike to make house calls.

 

How many kilometres do you cover in a year?
I estimate that, as a family, we have cycled more than 40,000 kilometres, of which a good 26,500 km are just down to me!

 

Many thanks for the interview, Vincent.

  • Paris: Becoming a 100% bike-friendly city

    Paris wants to become one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world and so has massively invested in its cycling infrastructure. The "plan vélo 2021-2026" has earmarked more than €250 million to upgrade cycle lanes and create new parking facilities.

    The ambitious goal is to have 180 kilometres of additional segregated cycle lanes by 2026. Around 130 kilometres of them will be built new, while around 50 kilometres of temporary pop-up cycle lanes ("corona lanes") will be converted into permanent lanes.

    130,000 additional bike parking spaces are also to be created. They include 50,000 secured spaces, for example at railway stations, and 1,000 spaces reserved exclusively for Cargo Bikes.

Paris by bike