London and Paris mayors meet to discuss cycle safety
Boris Johnson swaps ideas with Bertrand Delanoë
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson and his counterpart in Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, have met to share ideas about improving road safety in their respective cities, as well as swapping ideas regarding cycle infrastructure.
Following the meeting, which took place last Thursday, it was agreed that London's cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, would visit Paris in February to see first hand the measures being taken there to make conditions safer for cyclists.
It could be an illuminating trip. While under Mr Johnson, Transport for London (TfL) has sought to prioritise traffic flows, and also overturned the western extension of the congestion charge zone, across the Channel, his socialist counterpart in the French capital has taken space away from cars, including on the quais of the Seine.
Both men have introduced cycle hire schemes, but the earlier Velib' model in Paris differs substantially from London's Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme in the way it is financed, with advertising giant JC Decaux paying the start-up costs and operating the scheme in return for outdoor advertising rights.
In London, by contrast, Barclays' sponsorship of the scheme is set to end earlier than expected and the initiative has been described as a "financial black hole" for TfL.
The two mayors previously met in March last year, when their discussions centred around public transport as well as how to reduce pollution.
The example set by Paris, which places tight restrictions on the movement of lorries, especially at peak hours, is one that Mr Johnson has been urged to follow by British Cycling and other organisations.
One statistic that is regularly highlighted, including last November when six cyclists were killed in London within a two-week period, is that in Paris, no cyclists died in a road traffic collision in 2011.
Cycle campaigners in the UK, including British Cycling policy advisor, Chris Boardman, attribute that to the French capital's lorry ban.
However, the French authorities recognise that 2011 was an exceptional year, and say that between two and six riders lose their lives in Paris annually, in an area that is around half that of Greater London.
Besides cycling, issues discussed at this week's meeting included electric car-sharing schemes, and how to strengthen cultural links between the two cities.
Mr. Johnson said: “London and Paris have enjoyed strong links throughout history and today are home to some of the most creative, diverse and enterprising people on the planet.
"It’s been fantastic to welcome Mayor Delanoë to City Hall to share ideas about how we cement the bond between Paris and London and bolster our reputations as two of the world’s best big cities.
"From the efforts that we’re making to become cleaner, greener places, to the challenges of running transport systems and improving cycling infrastructure, our two great capitals have much to learn from each other.”
Mr Delanoë, who has been mayor of Paris since 2001, commented: "I'm delighted that London and Paris - two very creative European capitals - are sharing their experience and savoir-faire.
"It's superb that our co-operation is enabling experts from our two cities to work together and discover a common dynamic," he added.