Paris just inaugurated its very first all-bike superhighway. So far, the thoroughfare consists of a half-mile stretch of pavement that runs along the Bassin de l’Arsenal, but by 2020 it will be just one small part of a 28-mile bicycle highway network, called the Réseau express vélo (“REVe”), planned across the city. Rather than simply placing bike lanes on already-busy streets, the city has opted to build dedicated bike paths free of motorized vehicles — a move that’s certainly sure to encourage those too timid to travel in urban traffic. As more people bike to work each day, the hope is that the city’s notorious air pollution will be lessened.
In 2015, Paris officials voted to set aside €150 million ($164.5 million) to expand and improve the city’s biking infrastructure, including REVe. The city created new traffic regulations that are more friendly to cyclists, such as allowing them to turn at some intersections without waiting for green lights. The city also plans to build new bike stands, two-way bike lanes on one-way streets, and smart traffic lights that give priority to cyclists.
When you look at the numbers, it’s not surprising that city officials sought to make biking more attractive to residents. A 2014 study showed that bikes made up only 5% of the city’s daily traffic, accounting for 225,000 trips. While that may seem like a high number, it barely registers compared to the 15.5 million daily car trips made within the city. These numbers are positively dismal when compared to other European cities like Copenhagen (where cyclists account for 55% of traffic) or Amsterdam (a close second at 43%).
There is one factor that helps account for the disparity here: cyclists in Paris claim they simply don’t feel safe competing with motorized vehicles on the road. While most roads in the city have bike lanes, cyclists report being pushed out of them by other vehicles using them as lanes. The new bike highways solve this problem by eliminating shared bike lanes altogether — and the city hopes that cyclists will creep up to 15% of daily traffic by 2020.