Et si on commençait par élargir les trottoirs, Madame Hidalgo?” December 8, 2014. Le Monde. By Olivier Razemon, translated by Angus B. Grieve-Smith. View the original post for full-size images.

Trottoirs-Paris-10-091943Banning diesel vehicles, partially pedestrianizing the four central districts, bike paths, routes dedicated to “environmentally friendly” vehicles… The Mayor of Paris seems to have realized the danger that air pollution poses to people who spend time in the Paris region, whether they live there or not (details here).

These steps, which will be debated at upcoming City Council meetings, will be attacked by various lobbies and may become a political football. Anne Hidalgo knows a thing or two about that. Her Tour Triangle project was defeated last november by an ad hoc coalition in the chamber. The next round of residential parking rate increases, which the administration is quietly promoting, is still being debated by the ruling coalition. City Hall is worried that the Communist city council members will refuse to touch it, perceiving it as an attack on low-income households.

Piétons-sacrifiés-2859Discouraged pedestrians. So to bring down pollution, but also noise and frustration, while easing commutes, what if we started by widening the sidewalks? When you think about the street space available, when we encourage one mode of transportation, in this case walking, we discourage the others. Take a look at the photo above. To cross the intersection you’d be better off on a motorcycle than trying on foot. Pedestrians deserve better: according to a study by Insee, half of all trips in the capital are made on foot.

Potelets-ParisA little strip of asphalt. In small streets, a sliver barely a meter wide is left for pedestrians, whether they’re traveling solo, with others, with a stroller, in a wheelchair, or pulling a suitcase. The lane is wide enough that a speeding car or motorcyle can terrorize passersby, sending them running for their little strip of asphalt.

Trottoirs-Paris10-019King Bollard. Bollards, metal ones in particular, are installed to prevent sidewalk parking, but wind up limiting the movement of pedestrians. But that’s not all: green trash cans, angle-parked motorcycles, café tables and chairs, loose trash, yellow trash cans, and so on. There’s a lot going on on a Parisian sidewalk.

Trottoirs-Paris-18-161725All it takes is one irritant. In a lot of our streets, particularly at certain times of day, pedestrians have no choice but to walk in the street. This is not always dangerous, because drivers slow down automatically, but it’s inconvenient for everyone. A single car on a quasi-pedestrian street can upset fifty pedestrians, just like a single train passenger yelling into a cell phone at the expense of everyone else’s peace and quiet.

Paris-piéton-3282Like a racetrack. For pedestrians it is impossible to cross certain intersections in one light, thanks to barriers placed by the city. What you see in the photo above sends the message: Streets are sacred, like a racetrack, no trespassing. When we install these protections we forget that people who move with their bodies like to move fast too. If we freed pedestrians from the confines of these sidewalks we would at the same time cut down on the speed of cars, and eventually on unnecessary car use.

Trottoirs-Paris-2001Let’s talk business. On the Grands Boulevards, in many places, there is still a lane across the sidewalk to allow drivers to access the parking areas. Sure they do it slowly, but they push pedestrians aside, behind bollards. And this hurts businesses! Despite what you may hear from developers, and even from some business people, the best customers for local businesses are pedestrians and cyclists. They may buy less per visit, but they shop more often – as long as they feel comfortable on the street.

Trottoir-disparaîtSidewalks erased. Sometimes when people are doing construction they will close the sidewalk, but not the bike lane. You might think they do it on purpose, to set up the kinds of conflicts so beloved by the tabloids. This might be a good place to note that in calmer cities dedicated bicycle infrastructure is no longer necessary: bikes ride in the street, leaving plenty of space on the sidewalk for pedestrians.

Barrière-piétons-4176That pointless barricade. Sometimes we just can’t figure out the rationale behind certain installations. In the above photo, at the exit of the Colonel-Fabien metro station, this little barricade obstructs the flow of people leaving the metro and waiting to cross the street. What is the point of this piece of steel? There must once have been one, but it has been forgotten by everyone, including the transportation department.

Translation of Michelon, Vincent. June 8, 2010. Le vélo colonisera les Champs-Elysées. Metrofrance.com.

The bicycle plan, which envisions extensions of bicycle lanes, was passed on Tuesday by the Paris City Council. Four years from now, the Champs-Elysées will have two lanes reserved for cyclists.

The frustration of drivers will be the pleasure of cyclists. The bicycle plan, which unanimously passed the Paris City Council on Tuesday, had been upgraded at the urging of the Green Party. The Greens won a symbolic victory: the creation of a bicycle lane within four years along three kilometers on each side of the Champs-Elysées.

“This lane will be taken from the roadway,” explained Jacques Boutault, who was elected on the Green Party line as Mayor of the Second District. “Bicycles should not be taking space from pedestrians when cars are occupying 80% of the street.” The plan envisions a continuous route along the Rue de Rivoli and the Champs-Elysées. “This means that there will be a bicycle route across the Place de la Concorde,” Boutault suggested. The city’s bicycle network will be expanded from 440 kilometers to 700 by 2014.

Another Green Party proposal that was included in the plan is the creation of 2000 bicycle parking spots per year, instead of the 1000 per year originally envisioned. Half of these spaces will be on city property, in the courtyards of public housing projects, and the other half will take up road space, if necessary from automobile parking, as was done in 2007 for the 1400 Vélib’ stations.

“The message is clear: the car is not welcome in the central city,” explained Mayor Boutault. “People who travel by car will have to use private facilities.” In the central districts, a quarter of households own at least one car.

Photo: Travis Fox

Here’s a great Planet Money video where you get to see Adam Davidson figuring out why jitneys in Haiti are painted so vibrantly. However, I think there’s a mistranslation at 3:48 in the video.

Driver Patrick Toulousma is translated as saying “One can read the skill of a driver from the exterior of the vehicle in question,” and Davidson, clearly not a Creole speaker, goes with that.

I don’t know Creole myself, but it sure sounds like Standard French to me, and pretty formal:  “On peut lire l’image du chauffeur à travers la véhicule en question,” literally,  “One can read the image of the driver through the vehicle in question.” If a Parisian said that to me I would translate it as, “You can pick up on the driver’s image by looking at their vehicle.”

What does Toulousma mean by “image”? I’m guessing he’s referring to glamour, which Cap’n Transit argues can influence people’s decisions about a single trip.

Decentralized cooperation: our capital will soon have its streetcar line. The French company Lohr, based in Strasbourg, will construct it.

Coop?ration d?centralis?e : Bient?t une ligne de tramway ? Bamako, A. Doumbia, L’Essor, April 14, 2009.

A signing ceremony for two agreements towards this goal was held by Malian head of state Amadou Toumani Tour?. The initiative is part of the cooperation framework that has been established between France and our country. The signing took place in the Koulouba palace, in the presence of government ministers and the French ambassador to Mali, Michel Reveyrand De Menthon.

The first agreement was signed by the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Ahmed Diane S?m?ga, and the representative of the Lohr Industrie corporation, Jean Fran?ois Argence, for the delivery of the equipment. This was the first step in what will be the first streetcar line in Bamako, which the French representatives explained would be compatible with the particular requirements of the District and its population. In fact, Strasbourg has not only a streetcar network but also a factory that produces streetcars.

Bamako is currently grappling with three problems: health, urban mobility and urbanization. The city is modernizing, but improvements are lagging. The other accord, within the decentralized cooperation framework, signed between the mayor of the District, Adama Sangar?, and his counterpart from Strasbourg, Senator Roland Ries, was aimed at improving the existing physical plant and bringing modern infrastructure to the District.

Mr. Ries, who is on his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa, thanked President Tour? for the warm welcome he had shown the delegation from Strasbourg. He announced that the agreement had already been ratified by the Strasbourg city council. He reminded the audience that Strasbourg has extensive experience in public transit that it wants to make available to our country.

President Tour? explained that Bamako’s transportation needs are constantly growing. “We will no longer be satisfied with minibuses and other mass transit vehicles. This is why I wanted to bring a streetcar line to the District. The city of Strasbourg, which generously agreed to a preliminary technical consultation, wants to give its best to ensure our satisfaction,” he enthused. Mr. Tour? expects to double energy production here by 2012 to power the tramway.

A note on cooperation: many French towns have sister-city agreements with cities here. The relationship between Angers and Bamako, for example, is long-lasting. President Tour? wants to guide the country towards a more open form of partnership. He observed with pleasure that the decentralized cooperation between our two countries is very dynamic.