The city of Paris has been building new bicycle lanes since 2001. An especially big push came during the transit strike of 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic starting in 2020, both of which led to greatly increased bicycle use — except during the ‘confinement’ periods, of course, when people had to stay home most of the time.
Some of the new bike lanes were originally labelled as temporary (those marked in yellow instead of white), but the mayor now wants to make them permanent, even after the end of the pandemic.
My first photo (above) shows the street Rue de Rivoli in August 2021, with the two left lanes reserved for bicycles (and electric scooters and such), and the right lane reserved for buses and taxis. Private cars have been banned entirely from this street, and deliveries are limited to certain hours.
See also: Les bagnoles.
Conservative politicians succeeded for many years in delaying the creation of bicycle lanes on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, claiming among other things that such lanes would spoil the symmetry of the avenue — the real reason being that they didn’t want to give up any of the ten lanes that had hitherto been devoted to motor traffic. When the bike lanes were finally installed, hardly anyone noticed, because they were perfectly symmetrical and simply consisted of concrete separators mounted on top of the existing cobblestone pavement.
Local cyclists immediately started complaining that the cobblestones made for an unnecessarily bumpy ride.
Having finally tried the new lanes myself, during a brief visit in the summer of 2021, I’m afraid I have to agree that the cobblestones make cycling on the Champs-Elysées a bone-shaking experience, especially on the downhill side of the street.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, plans are being developed to transform the Avenue des Champs-Elysées over the next decade by further reducing the number of lanes devoted to motor traffic and using the space for vegetation, pedestrians and cyclists, cafés and restaurants, small parks and playgrounds. Zoning changes are also being considered, to promote “a more authentic and more French retail offering, emphasizing French savoir-faire, gastronomy and the art of living rather than large international chains perceived as being sterile and interchangeable.”
See also: It used to be even worse!
Rue de Tilsitt is a short street that goes in a semi-circle around the northern half of the Arch of Triumph, just a short block away. Together with Rue de Presbourg, it makes a full circle around the Arch.
For many decades, the entire street was devoted to motor vehicles, but at some point in recent years the space was reallocated in such way that the inner half of the circle is now used for bicycle lanes in both directions, separated from motor traffic by raised separators in addition to painted lines. This enables cyclists to ride past the Arch of Triumph without exposing themselves to the chaotic motor traffic that still swirls around the Arch itself.
See also: The triumph of cars over people.
Another way for cyclists to get past the Arch of Triumph is to use this former car tunnel, now reserved for bicycles. The tunnel doesn’t pass directly under the Arch, but curves around it slightly.
The other end of the tunnel is here on the Avenue de la Grande Armée, which is the continuation of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées on the other side of the Arch.
Another former car tunnel that is now used for bicycles is this one starting at Place de la Concorde. This tunnel was originally built in the 1960s as part of the notorious Voie Express Georges Pompidou, an expressway for motor vehicles that disfigured the right bank of the Seine for nearly half a century before it was finally closed down in 2016.
This tunnel is now part of a bicycle route that goes underneath the Place de la Concorde and then comes up onto a car-free bicycle street along the edge of the Tuileries Gardens. From there you can ride into a second, longer tunnel that is also completely car-free, and when you come out of that one you are at the beginning of the Parc Rives de Seine (Park of the Banks of the Seine), which in the summer is also one of the sites of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches).
My photos and text in this post are from 2021.
See also: Vélib’ 2021.