SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

How Paris will spend €250 million on making city ‘100 % bike friendly’

The city of Paris on Thursday promised to develop its network of secure cycling lanes as part of a five-year plan to make the French capital "100-percent bikeable" with €250 million of extra spending.

Cycle lanes in Paris
Cycle lanes in Paris. Photo: AFP

Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, who runs Paris with support from the Green  party, placed a push for more bike-friendly policies at the centre of her platform that got her re-elected by a wide margin in June of last year.

She is now also the Socialist party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election, hoping to unseat President Emmanuel Macron, but her campaign has got off to a woeful start with single-digit ratings.

Her policies have found wide support among the capital’s urban elites with short commutes, but they are seen as a much harder sell in the rest of the country.

“Our target is to make our city 100 percent bikeable,” David Belliard, deputy mayor in charge of urban transformation and Green party member, told AFP.

Some €180 million of new spending is earmarked for infrastructure, including plans for major bike routes across the city and into surrounding suburbs, and additional measures to make crossings and key entry points into inner Paris safer for cyclists, Belliard said.

Some flashpoints will get dedicated paths for cyclists and pedestrians completely separate from any car traffic, he added.

The city already spent €150 million on an initial biking plan, calling this the start of a “revolution” for the capital.

An added sense of urgency came with the Covid-19 pandemic that sparked a rapid extension of the city’s cycling path network, dubbed “corona-pistes”, as commuters shunned public transport for fear of infection.

As part of the new plan, those lanes, often hastily built to meet sudden demand, are to be made permanent and secure.

By 2026 the Parisian network of safe cycling paths is to total 180 kilometres. Cyclists will be allowed to use one-way streets against oncoming car traffic on another 390 kilometres of streets.

The mayor’s bike-friendly policies have sparked anger from motorists, with decisions such as turning stretches of urban motorways along the river Seine over to bikes and pedestrians.

Paris now often makes it into the top leagues of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, ahead of any other mega-city, although still well behind European cycling models Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

The city also plans to help prevent bike theft, which Belliard said was “one of the obstacles to bicycle use”.

By 2026, he said, Paris would have 100,000 new dedicated parking spots for bikes, of which 40,000, notably near train and metro stations, would be guarded.

Paris will also curb inner-car traffic further, aiming to end cross-city car transit completely, and cutting car traffic by half in a designated city centre zone.

Schools in the capital are to boost bike training to ensure that “all young Parisians know how to ride a bike when they leave primary school”, Belliard said.

Hidalgo, who will also face Green candidate Yannick Jadot in the election, is now looking to kickstart her flagging presidential campaign with a rally in the city of Lille on Sunday.

Member comments

  1. One can only hope she doesn’t win the election for France’s sake. She’s already doing her best to turn Paris into a living museum.😆

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENERGY

EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

As energy prices soar around Europe, France is the notable exception where most people have seen no significant rise in their gas or electricity bills - so what lies behind this policy? (Hint - it's not just that the French would riot if their bills exploded).

EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

On most international comparisons of rising energy prices, France is the outlier – but the government control of energy prices is not in fact a new policy and was in place well before the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent gas and electricity prices soaring.

At present prices for domestic gas are frozen at 2021 levels and electricity prices can only increase four percent per year. According to economy minister Bruno Le Maire, without these measures French bills would have risen by 60 percent for gas and 45 percent for electricity.

Both these measures – collectively known as the bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield) – are in place until at least the end of 2022, and could be extended into 2023.

The extension of the price shield was confirmed by parliament earlier in August – part of a €65 billion package of measures aimed at tackling the cost-of-living crisis – but had been in place for much longer.

Tariff shield

The reason that gas prices are frozen at 2021 levels is that the freeze came into effect on November 1st 2021 – well before Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The measure was initially put in place to help people deal with the economic after-effects of the pandemic, but was extended in the spring of 2022, when electricity prices were also capped at four percent.

Price regulation

But although prolonged price freezes are unusual, the French government involvement in price-setting is completely normal and during non-freeze periods, a rate is set each month.

If you read French media (or The Local), you’ll notice regular articles on ‘what changes next month’ which include gas and electricity prices, usually expressed as a month-on-month percentage rise or fall. This refers to the maximum rate that utility companies are allowed to increase their charges per month.

The government-set rate refers to the basic price plan from EDF. Some people are on special deals or time-limited tariffs, so if their deal or payment plan ends and they go back onto the basic rate, they can see a rise above the government rate.

Around 85 percent of households in France get their electricity from EDF. 

READ MORE: Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%

State-owned utilities

So, why is the government involved? Well, it’s the majority stakeholder in EDF, the country’s largest electricity supplier, and owns Gaz de France (Engie). 

At present EDF isn’t completely state owned – although there are plans to fully nationalise it – but it owns 84 percent.

The French state owns a lot of service and utility companies including the country’s rail provider SNCF, postal service La Poste and France Télévisions. One notable exception is the country’s autoroutes, which are run by private companies, although the government sets limits on toll charges. 

Nuclear 

France is less exposed to energy shocks than some other European countries because of its nuclear sector.

It is unusual among European nations in the size of its nuclear industry – around 70 percent of electricity comes from its own domestic nuclear power plants, although during the heatwave several plants have had to lower output as rivers have become too hot to effectively cool the reactors. There are also ongoing technical issues that have seen some of the older plants shut down or forced to lower output.

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear?

France is usually a net exporter of electricity, but at peak times it has to import electricity, usually via the high-priced international spot market.

It does, however, import its gas, mostly via pipeline – in 2020 its biggest supplier was Norway, followed by Russia.

The French government has launched a sobriété energetique (energy sobriety) plan to cut its total energy consumption by 10 percent this year, which it hopes will allow it to get through the winter without Russian gas. 

Riots

Even before the recent €65 billion aid package, the French government was taking a pro-active role in helping people deal with rising prices – from the price shield to fuel rebates for drivers, €100 grants for low-income households and financial aid for industries such as agriculture and logistics so they could avoid passing prices on the consumers.

Cynics say this happened for two reasons – because there were elections in April and June and because the French would riot if their utility bills suddenly doubled.

There’s a kernel of truth in both – cost of living became a major issue in the April presidential elections and one that far-right leader Marine Le Pen very much made her own from early in the campaign, leaving Emmanuel Macron slightly on the back foot, although in truth his government had already introduced several measures to ease the burden on ordinary voters.

It’s also true that the French have a robust approach to holding their government to account, and high living costs have previously inspired noisy and sometime violent protests – the ‘yellow vest’ movement of 2018 and 19 began as a protest over living costs.

But it’s also true that the French State is generally quite involved in people’s everyday lives – as evidenced by those monthly gas and electricity price rates – and taking a laissez-faire approach such as that seen in the UK would be unusual for any French government, even outside of election season.

SHOW COMMENTS