Friday, November 03, 2006

Buses and Bikes in Paris

by Hank Resnik

As many of you know, Paris is my second home. A major reason for this is that Paris is truly a transit-oriented city. All the neighborhoods cluster around transportation nodes, most often Metro stations.

In recent years the bus system in Paris has improved greatly. Most impressive has been the newly implemented citywide network of bus-only lanes. Very close to the apartment we're renting, for example, is a major street. Formerly it was four lanes with two lanes of traffic in each direction. In the last year it was divided by a wide concrete median into two two-lane streets. One of the two-lane streets is for private vehicles. The other is primarily for buses.

The citywide network of bus-only lanes enables buses to move quickly and without the obstruction of other traffic, and it makes bus travel a lot faster and more convenient than traveling by car. It seems odd that anyone would prefer a car to any other mode of transit in Paris, in fact. At most times of day private vehicles move slowly and often encounter gridlock.

The bus lanes are shared with two other kinds of vehicles: taxis and bicycles. My bike is still my primary mode of transportation in Paris, and I find the bus/bike lanes both safe and convenient. Paris is becoming more and more bike-friendly, part of a deliberate program on the part of the mayor and city administration to reduce private automobile use, promote transit, and provide safe and convenient opportunities for bicyclists.

Paris is hardly unique in Europe, where the private automobile is always considered just one option for getting around, not the only option. Combined with all its other attractions, however, Paris is getting better all the time.


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