Unintended Consequences of Paris’s Traffic-Reduction Policies

Red lights mean gridlock on this real-time map of Parisian road traffic.

During the launch of Paris’s new streetcar system last month, a Times of London wrote that Parisians are beginning to turn against Mayor Bertrand Delanoe’s aggressive traffic reduction measures:

Paris residents, most of whom do not drive much, were until recently happy with the anti-car policies of Delanoe’s Socialist-Greens administration. The mayor put a brake on the "all-car" policies that reached their peak in the 1970s when Presidents Pompidou and Giscard d’Estaing drove free-ways into and around the city and turned the Seine embankment and boulevards into traffic arteries.

Now Parisians dislike the unintended consequences of Delanoe’s crusade: an invasion of noisy scooters and motorcycles and a rise in accidents involving pedestrian and motorcyclists. A big factor in the death toll are the wide bus lanes that run in the opposite direction to traffic. People walk into them without looking and they are often used by motorcycles and other traffic. An Ipsos poll by the conservative le Figaro today found that while 52 percent of the city approves of Delanoe’s mayoralty, 68 percent are now opposed to his traffic policy.

Photo: Suskela/Flickr 

  • What type of scooter were they using as a standard for this measurement? Electric scooters would be awesome, but the old two stroke engines can produce more soot and CO2 from some analyses I’ve read because they are so inefficient.

    Also, many people don’t know how to handle scooters. On a trip to Asia a few years ago, there were many European and American tourists that received minor and major injuries from motor bikes. Some of this is because they probably had never used one before and perhaps they were drinking, but there are many safety issues for untrained drivers.

    A good old electric powered bike would be a much better alternative.

  • Yet, their conservative counterparts in London are pushing for the tram there:

    It sounds like there is real change going on in Paris; therefore the transition is bound to be a little bumpy.

  • “an invasion of noisy scooters”

    Please. Incredibly noisy scooters covered the entirety of the Hexagon by 2002, and probably long before that. The thing to do is force Peugeot to make them vastly quieter, as Vespa somehow does when exporting “euro” scooters to silly Americans.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The right-wing politician quoted in the articles, Panafieu, is full of it. Connections between Paris and the suburbs are better than they’ve been in years; just hop on the RER or “Transilien” and there you are. There are a whole bunch of improvements in the works, too.

    If Panafieu wants to talk about barriers, there’s already a barrier between Paris and the suburbs: the “Périph” highway, which used to be an actual city wall. The “portes” crossing it are some of the least pedestrian-friendly spaces in the region. If she actually cared about connections between Paris and the suburbs she’d propose a solution to that, but she’s just trying to capitalize on the short-term difficulties of traffic calming. I hope it doesn’t work.


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