Cyclists in an area of Paris are to be permitted to ride through some red lights in a trial of an initiative that could eventually be rolled out throughout France. It has also emerged that there were no cycling fatalities in the French capital in 2011, compared to 16 across the English Channel in the British capital, London.
News of the proposals in Paris, which follow similar trials elsewhere in France, was reported by The Times earlier this week and today the newspaper has reported that Labour’s Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone plans, if he wins May’s London mayoral election, to introduce ‘cyclist-only’ phases at traffic lights at key junctions throughout the city.
Councillors in Paris voted to adopt the trial that will see cyclists in areas around the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th Arrondisement allowed to ignore traffic lights when turning right, or at T-junctions, including where the cyclist is riding along the main road and another one joins from the side.
No duration has been fixed for the duration of the trial, which may eventually be rolled out to another 69 areas throughout the city that are already subject to 30km an hour speed limits. The estimated cost of that would be €550,000, according to the newspaper Le Parisien, which adds that ultimately, the rule could be extended to some 1,700 traffic light-controlled junctions in Paris.
While the right-turn for cyclists received ministerial approval in November 2010, it was only last month that a road sign permitting the manoeuvre was authorised, showing a yellow bicycle on a white field in a red triangle, with an arrow indicating right or straight ahead as the case may be at the junction in question.
Quoted in The Times, Christine Lambert, chairwoman of cycle campaign group Mieux Se Déplacer à Bicyclette (MDB) said that the proposals made sense.
“Traffic lights are not a factor of security. They were installed so that car drivers would let pedestrians cross the road, to regulate the flow of traffic and to moderate the speed.
“But bicycles don’t go fast and don’t make any noise. It’s idiotic to stop for nothing. You waste energy and it slows you down. The best safety assets for cyclists are your eyes and your brain.
“Some people think that the rules of the road should be the same for everyone but that is wrong.”
Not everyone is in agreement, however. One city councillor, Laurence Douvin, commented: “If pedestrians, cyclists, motorbike users and car drivers don’t respect each other, the introduction of these practices could increase the risks in Paris.”
The Times reports that no cyclists were killed in Paris during 2011, compared to six in 2010, but there was a 14 per cent rise in the number of cyclists injured, which was more than 600, attributed to an increase in the number of cyclists.
Factors possibly explaining that startling disparity in the number of cyclists killed in the British and French capitals include the fact that the latter has an extensive network of segregated cycle paths, often wide and two-way as shown in the picture, greater restrictions on movement of lorries in Paris during the day, and higher construction traffic in London due to major projects such as the Olympic Park and The Shard, to name but two.
The police authority for Paris outlined its view that cyclists themselves were responsible for some of their injuries, saying in a statement:
“If cyclists are sometimes victims of dangerous behaviour by other road users, their own tendency to break the rules of the road is too often at the origin of these accidents.”
It added that 5,922 cyclists received fines in the first nine months of the year, more than half of those for failing to stop at a red light, which attracts a fine of €135, with other transgressions including using a mobile phone while on a bike, for which around 500 were fined.
France also benefits from cycling being addressed at national level, with the country unveiling its first Plan National Vélo last month following a round-table conference that brought together cycling campaigners and politicians as well as transport experts, chaired by a senior civil servant appointed by the President himself. Whoever holds that position goes by the rather charming soubriquet of 'Monsieur Vélo' - we suppose if there were an equivalent post in the UK, he or she would be designated the 'Cycling Czar.'
Quoted in The Times today, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who is the Labour candidate in this May’s mayoral elections, said he planned to introduce a cyclists-only phase at key junctions throughout the city if elected.
“To give cyclists a five-second advantage is a relatively simple thing to do,” he explained. “You’ve got to do it everywhere where there is a risk to cyclists.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.