Since the first lockdown, Paris has become the test site for an ambitious cycling project, rolling out new infrastructure and remapping its transport routes. It is not the only European city where pop-up cycle paths have appeared, almost overnight, but in some cases they have not remained in place for long. Prospects for the changes to become permanent features are threatened by competing interests, however, calling into question whether the city will succeed in generating a long-term shift in transport habits.
There was a time when cycling was considered an adventure sport in Paris. Cyclists meandered through gaps in between cars, past stinking exhaust pipes, crowded against the narrow pavement until the next traffic light.
Leo, 23, had long scorned the bicycle in Paris. The young professional lives in a suburb. For his first job, he cycles daily across the French capital. He manages the 30 kilometer route in 45 minutes.
For many years, Leo only used his bike during holidays. On two wheels he toured from Paris to Amsterdam and the Atlantic. For a good two years now, he has also completely renounced the train and the car in Paris. On the first few kilometers of his daily route, in the south of Paris, he is still one of the few on a bicycle: “At the city limits, the bicycle lane disappears for a while. The Coronapiste starts at the Luxembourg Garden. This is what we call the new cycle track in Paris”.
Paris is unrecognisable. Those who still leave home for work during lockdown these days meet commuters everywhere in their jackets on two wheels. The urban rental bikes in striking green mingle with silver city bikes.
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