Thursday, April 22, 2010

Il faut que la voiture s'adapte à Paris !

Like virtually all European cities, Paris was founded and prospered long before automobiles came along, and many of its streets are designed only for pedestrians and the occasional cart and horse, not for SUVs and Hummers. Despite this, the city has gradually been forced into yielding to the automobile over more than a century, and the results are grim (in my view).

A typical small street in Paris has several lanes reserved for cars, and only a very, very tiny space reserved for sidewalks. There are many streets that have “sidewalks” that are only about 18 inches wide. Pedestrians are thus forced to walk in the street half the time, and that's dangerous, not only because of cars, but especially because of motorcycles, which routinely pass between lanes of cars at high speed (it's illegal, but this is France).

The street where I work is no exception to this rule. Three lanes, two for parking and one for driving, are reserved for cars. The tiny sidewalks are barely a yard (one meter) wide. You can see from my picture that there are lots of pedestrians struggling to walk on the sidewalk without stepping into the street (where they might be killed by an illegal motorcycle), whereas the vast expanse of pavement reserved for cars is largely empty.

The current mayor has tried hard to reduce vehicular traffic in Paris, but I don't believe he has attacked this problem yet. I wish he would.