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15 April 2015

Paris to become ‘cycling capital of the world’ with €150m scheme

Paris is planning to become the “cycling capital of the world” and will invest €150 million to double the number of cycle paths in the city and address pollution concerns.

The proposals were unveiled in the French capital this month and City Hall officials said the plan could see the number of journeys made by bike in Paris triple from five per cent currently to 15 per cent by 2020.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s office announced the ambitious new plan on April 2 and the initiative includes the installation of new bike parking facilities and offering financial incentives to encourage people to buy bicycles.

The schemes centrepiece will be a new cycle “express way” covering more than 80km of two-way cycle paths along some of the city’s main avenues.

As part of the plan, various cycle paths will be added and expanded, doubling the total length of cycle routes to 1,400km over the next five years.

The proposals are due to go before a vote at the next city council meeting in April and would address some of the cities environmental issues, according to Christophe Najdovski, Paris’s deputy mayor in charge of transport.

Najdovski said: “The battle against greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants is also at stake with this project.”

Although figures show that air pollution in Paris has steadily declined in recent years, an estimated two to four million people in the region are exposed annually to air quality that fails to meet European standards, according to the pollution monitoring agency Airparif.

In March, city officials were forced to introduce a number of emergency measures to curb a dangerous spike in air pollution including a ban on half of all road vehicles and making public transport free.

Air pollution reached such severe levels on March 18 that Paris ranked higher than Beijing and New Delhi for the world’s dirtiest air, according to monitoring group Plume Labs.

An estimated 40,000 French die prematurely from fine particle air pollution each year.

Enhancing road safety for cyclists is a major part of the new initiative, and official’s are hoping it will encourage more people to swap cars for bikes.

Measures will include introducing 30km/h for smaller roads with cycle paths, rising to 50 km/h on main roads.

Najdovski added: "We believe that people would be willing to take the step, but don’t do it because of a sense of insecurity. We also want to address breaks in the cycle network, such as at the portes (city gates) on the outskirts of Paris.”

Cycling has become increasingly popular in Paris in recent years with the number of journeys made by bike in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, doubling between 2001 and 2010 to 650,000 a day.

The city’s Vélib cycle hire scheme reached a record 283,000 subscribers in 2014.

Officials are now looking to introduce a new electric bike hire scheme to enable users to make longer journeys.

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