5th February 2021
Trips by bike in the Paris region doubled as a result of pop-up bike lanes created because of the pandemic. Fears of increased motor vehicle congestion did not materialise, even when traffic levels returned to normal.
A report by the Ile-de-France region, which includes the French capital, analysed the construction and use of an emergency bike network between May and October 2020.
Before the pandemic, the bicycle's modal share was in 1.9%. During public transport strikes (December 2019 and January 2020), cycle trips doubled.
When the Coronavirus crisis struck, public transport capacity was reduced by 85%. That was a problem, because 40% of working people in Ile de France normally use public transport; that rises to 65% in central Paris.
The bike could be a solution, but there weren't enough continuous, protected bike routes, with high capacity. Given the urgency of the situation, it was decided to adopt a trial-error-improvement model.
Emergency bike lanes were created starting in April 2020, initially at a rate of 5km per day. By May, there was a 50km network, and by August around 140km in the region.
In October 2020, 85% of the bike lanes were still in place. Traffic had returned to normal levels, but congestion was slightly down on the previous year - suggesting the bike network had no effect.
There were many types of bike lanes, but it was clear that they needed to be safe, and part of a complete network.
The attractiveness of the cycle network depends to a great extent on continuity and good links: a cyclist must be able to make the major part of their trip in safety.
Une attractivité du réseau cyclable dépendant de l'effect réseau, p26 of the Report
As well as a doubling of cycle trips, the pop-up network contributed to a big increase in cargo bike deliveries.
A poll for a climate action group found that 62% of respondents wanted the pop-up bike lanes to stay, rising to 68% of 18-35 year olds.
A survey for the Ville de Paris looked at the people making trips by bike:
An organisation called Vélo Ile de France stressed that well-signposted, dedicated routes are best. Bike lanes indicated with paint only, or segregated with widely-spaced wands, are not much used.
The good lanes are used by people on scooters and roller-skates, as well as on bikes.
At first some bus lanes were given over to bikes, and buses consigned to general traffic. This worked ok when traffic was dramatically down, but less well as the number of bus passengers and amount of traffic increased again.
The report says that cohabitation of bikes and buses can work, but only in denser urban areas where buses are never going at high speed. Also important is:
Similarly, bike lanes can be designed for use by emergency vehicles, with little inconvenience to cyclists.
The challenge for Paris and the Ile de France region now is to keep
the pop-up network in use as it is made permanent, with better quality
and more capacity.