Les bagnoles

One day in 2012, I was on rue Saint-Antoine, near place de la Bastille, taking photos of the Beaumarchais statue, when I noticed this yellow sign reading “Piste cyclable neutralisée”, meaning that the bicycle lane had been neutralized, eliminated, done away with. At the bottom of the sign some irate cyclist had added a handwritten question: “Quand est-ce qu’on neutralise les bagnoles?”

At the time I didn’t know the word bagnole, though I had no trouble guessing it from the context. Later I looked it up, and sure enough, it turned out to be a derogatory word for automobile (certainly an essential word to know), so the handwritten question meant: “When are they going to neutralize the cars?”

Separated bidirectional bike lane on rue Saint-Antoine, 2019

Seven years later, in 2019, they hadn’t exactly neutralized the bagnoles, but they had done some serious reapportionment of public space, taking a 4-meter lane of the street away from the cars and making it into a bidirectional bike lane separated from motor traffic by a granite séparateur or by various things like bus stops, bicycle and motorbike parking, traffic islands and even trash cans.

This is part of the East-West axis of the new Réseau Express Vélo (Express Bike Network), which has been planned and argued about for quite some time, but in recent years is actually being built, at a cost of some 150 million Euros. When this section was opened, the newspaper Le Parisien interviewed a cyclist who said he was very satisfied because the new route was faster and especially because he no longer had to “naviguer entre les bagnoles“ = navigate between the cars.

Cyclists on rue Saint-Antoine, 2019

My plans for 2020 included several trips to Paris, during which I intended to (among other things) try out all these new bike lanes, but of course the coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to all that. I’ll be back, however, as soon as travel is allowed and safe.

My photos in this post are from 2012 and 2019. I wrote the text in 2020.

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