Half of cyclists in Paris break the law – so city relaxes laws

Traffic laws to be relaxed for cyclists in Paris

by Kevin Emery   August 14, 2009  

Eiffel tower.jpg

The French may have a thriving capital when it comes to cycling, with excellent bicycle hire schemes like the Velib, and they may have given us the Tour de France. And who wouldn’t want to ride past the Eiffel Tower and along the Champs Elysees in Paris.

But they are not adverse to bending the road rules it would seem, as according to the city’s traffic chief Gildas Robert around half of the cyclists in Paris break the law. Going through red lights is the most common offence from Parisian cyclists, while others turn without signalling, use their mobiles while in the saddle, or cycle drunk.

And as a result of ignoring the rules the number of fines for cyclists has increased rapidly, with more than three times as many fines handed out than in 2004. It was reported that fines now total 14,000 to just 4,000 five years ago.

Authorities in Paris have responded to the problem by relaxing many laws for cyclists – they will soon be allowed to turn right at certain junctions even when the lights are red. Also, by next summer 67 30mph zones will allow bikes to travel in the opposite direction to traffic.

The number of bikes in Paris has doubled since 2001, boosted by the free hire Velib' scheme. Last year there were 635 accidents involving cyclists. Most were caused by motorists not seeing cyclists and, for example, opening doors in their path. There were five deaths last year, mainly due to lorries’ blind spots when turning right. 

With regards to the additions working in London Mayor Boris Johnson is in favour of allowing cyclists to turn left at red lights as long as they give way to pedestrians and Silka Kennedy-Todd, Senior Campaigns Officer for TfL said: “Our position on the left on red turn is that it’s something we are keen to trial here but it’s down to the Department for Transpot (DfT) and any such scheme would require a change in the law,

Speaking to the Guardian in April, Roger Geffen, the campaigns and policy manager of the national cyclists' organisation CTC, said: "I would be happy for cyclists to turn left on red if there was a way in which it could be done by meeting pedestrians' needs, but it doesn't make any sense dreaming up policies that are never going to happen."