Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beware of Bicycles!

The success of Vélib' in the City of Light over the past year seems to have encouraged Parisians to take up cycling in a larger sense, even when they are not renting the Vélib' bikes. I see more and more bicycles around the city. In fact, nowadays, when walking around the city, you have to watch for both motor vehicles and bicycles.

Bicycles move more slowly, but their riders also seem more oblivious to traffic laws (which also apply to bicycles). They ride through red lights, they ride on sidewalks, etc., and this does not enhance safety. It's a wonder that more of them are not killed. These days I have to look carefully at bike paths when crossing them, just as I do with streets, because there are often Vélib' riders or others barreling along on their cycles without paying attention to pedestrians in their paths.

I often walk to school (in part for exercise, but especially for the sake of saving a Métro ticket), and there are a couple of danger spots that I'm now quite careful about. You never know when a silent, speeding Vélib' will materialize from the shadows and run you down like a skunk in the road.

A recent report shows that Parisians are not only riding bicycles more, but they are also using mass transit more—traffic on the subway is up six percent over last year. Perhaps our fine mayor's continuing attempts to compel people to use greener forms of transportation than cars are finally having an effect. Among the zillions of cars still on the streets, though, the proportion of SUVs continues to rise.

There was a time when I tried to ride a bike in Paris. Those were the days. The city is somewhat more bike friendly now. But no time or money for that these days.

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