Anne Hidalgo, socialist presidential candidate, pleads for a “100% cycle-friendly” Paris

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Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, who lobbied for a more bicycle-friendly Paris at the center of her presidential candidacy, is organizing a rally in the French city of Lille on Sunday. Hidalgo is looking to refine his environmental credentials before facing the Greens candidate Yannick Jadot in the elections next April.

Anne Hidalgo, who runs Paris with backing from the Greens, has placed pressure for more bike-friendly policies at the center of her platform which re-elected her widely in June of last year.

She is now also the Socialist Party candidate in next year’s presidential election, hoping to topple President Emmanuel Macron, but her campaign has started dismally with single-digit odds.

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

“Our goal is to make our city 100% cycle-friendly,” David Belliard, deputy mayor responsible for urban transformation and member of the Greens, told AFP.

Some 180 million euros in new spending is spent on infrastructure, including plans for major cycle paths through the city and in the surrounding suburbs, and additional measures to make the passages and main points of entry into Paris intra -safer walls for cyclists, said Belliard.

Some hot spots will have dedicated paths for cyclists and pedestrians completely separated from all car traffic, he added.

The city has already spent 150 million euros on a first bicycle plan, calling it the start of a “revolution” for the capital.

An added sense of urgency came with the Covid-19 pandemic which triggered a rapid expansion of the city’s cycle lane network, dubbed “corona-trails”, as commuters avoided public transport for fear of infection.

Under the new plan, these tracks, often built in haste to meet sudden demand, must be made permanent and secure.

By 2026, the Parisian network of secure cycle paths will total 180 kilometers. Cyclists will be permitted to use one-way streets against oncoming motor traffic for an additional 390 kilometers of streets.

Bike-friendly Paris?

The mayor’s pro-cycling policies have aroused the ire of motorists, with decisions such as ceding sections of urban motorways along the Seine to bicycles and pedestrians.

Today, Paris often ranks among the top leagues of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, ahead of any other mega-city, although it lags far behind European models of cycling, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

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

By 2026, he said, Paris would have 100,000 new parking spaces dedicated to bicycles, of which 40,000, especially near stations and subways, would be guarded.

Paris will also further reduce internal car traffic, with the aim of completely ending cross-city car transit and halving car traffic in a designated downtown area.

Schools in the capital will boost cycling training to ensure that “all young Parisians know how to ride a bike after leaving primary school,” said Belliard.

Hidalgo, who will also face environmental candidate Yannick Jadot in the elections, is now seeking to relaunch his faltering presidential campaign with a rally on Sunday in the city of Lille.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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