Special Report: Cycling

How Paris Decided to Become a Bicycle-Friendly City

We are where we are today because of a long series of decisions that reflected our values and priorities. If we want our future to look different, we need to make different decisions. It's that simple.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 07, 2011

A cyclist in Paris
A cyclist in Paris

There's a prevailing idea that cities, whether great or middling or desperate, are inevitably so. Great cities are renowned for their iconic architecture, lively streets, vibrant economies, famous amenities, rich arts communities - indeed, it is these things that make them great. One begins to assume they spring fully formed, like Athena, from the foreheads of their founders, operating under the aegis of their masterful design.

This line of reasoning gives underperforming cities an excuse not to try doing great things. As CHML's Bill Kelly said when a group of citizens wanted their residential street taken off the city's truck route, "Seems like there's an anti-truck or anti-vehicle feeling out there. C'mon, this isn't Copenhagen, it's Hamilton!"

That's self-fulfilling defeatism. Great cities are great because they choose to be great - not just once or twice at the beginning, but over and over again in a constellation of choices, both large and small, that constantly refine and redefine the public vision of what the city can be.

It begs the question to suggest that Copenhagen is bicycle friendly because it has all those bike lanes. Where did the bike lanes came from? Like most cities, Copenhagen was designed and built aggressively for motorists right up until the 1970s, when the OPEC oil shock awoke that city's leaders to the insecurity of being dependent on imported oil. They chose to make the city bicycle-friendly, and then they did it.

In a recent Raise the Hammer piece, Nicholas Kevlahan noted that French government employees once parked in the Louvre courtyard in Paris - right until the construction of I. M. Pei's pyramid in 1989. Think of it: just a couple of decades ago, the sumptuous courtyard of the world's most famous art museum was used as a parking lot - in Paris, no less!

Kevlahan concluded, "The moral of this story...is that urban design is not some sort of innate genetic code. Paris is the way it is today because of a whole series of conscious decisions."

Paris: Bicycle City

A Paris bicycle repair shop
A Paris bicycle repair shop

Paris has undergone another remarkable transformation in the past two decades: against nearly everyone's expectations, Paris has transformed itself into a bicycle-friendly city. The story of how that happened is worth repeating because it disabuses the notion that history is destiny and showcases how a place can, with bravery and creativity, overcome even the most intractable obstacles to change.

Back in the mid-1990s, cycling in Paris was exactly the kind of white-knuckled, take-your-life-in-your-hands macho excursion with which North American cyclists are intimately familiar. Sidewalks were for pedestrians, streets were for automobiles and there was little room for any other nonsense.

The case against cycling in Paris seemed overwhelming: the tangle of narrow, medieval streets left no room for bike lanes, and in any case the prevailing conservative car culture was hostile to the very idea.

Another challenge was the fact that Paris is more or less uniformly composed of 150-year-old, six-storey buildings that were later retrofitted with tiny elevators. For most residents, simply getting a bicycle in and out of their apartment presented a logistical nightmare.

Despite this, the city's leaders decided that Paris should be a cycling haven on par with Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Lyon. Starting in 1995, spurred on by a wave of public sector strikes that shut down the Paris Metro, they began making the choices that would transform Paris into a cycling city.

Decision Followed by Action

In 1996, under the leadership of then-mayor Jean Tiberi, the city installed the first 50 kilometres of bike lanes. By the end of 1997, the city installed another 50 kilometres with plans to expand still further.

Cycling advocates were delighted. Others scoffed, wondering why the city should spend money on a bicycle network when so few people rode bicycles. A coalition of Champs-Elysées business owners managed to block a section of bike lane that was supposed to go on the city's most famous boulevard.

However, momentum was building toward a robust, continuous bike lane network. A 1996 study found that 400 Parisians died every year from poor air quality caused by vehicle emissions, galvanizing support for the plan.

Paris even has cyclist traffic signals
Paris even has cyclist traffic signals

In 2001, newly-elected mayor Bertrand Delanoe introduced Paris Respire, or "Paris Breathes": Sunday and holiday road closures in the city centre, which drew out the city's latent cyclists, skateboarders and in-line skaters in droves.

By 2010, Paris had a 440 kilometre cycling network that spanned the city. Still another 260 kilometres are scheduled to be installed by 2014, for a total of 700 kilometres.

(Contrast Hamilton's 2010 cycling plan, which installs 300 kilometres of urban bike lanes and shared lanes over a period of 20 to 40 years. So far, two councillors have already exercised vetoes over bike lanes in their wards.)


Vélib' station in Paris
Vélib' station in Paris

A major milestone was the July, 2007 launch of Vélib' (a portmanteau of vélo liberté, or "bicycle freedom"), a short-term rental service for utility bicycles.

With a fleet of over 20,000 bicycles in 1,800 stations across the city and a rate system that promotes circulation, Vélib' is a particularly elegant solution to a major problem: the difficulty of owning and transporting a bicycle in a Paris apartment.

Using Vélib', a commuter can rent a bicycle in the morning, ride to work, drop the bicycle off, and pick up another bicycle to ride home in the evening. The service is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year - and the first half-hour is always free.

1,800 Vélib' stations are scattered across the city
1,800 Vélib' stations are scattered across the city

Over 160,000 Parisians have annual Vélib' subscriptions - these long-term subscriptions make up three quarters of the total - and the service averages 100,000 rentals a day. This past April, less than four years after launching, Vélib' surpassed 100 million total trips. JCDecaux, the company that administers Vélib', calculates that the service has saved 40,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

There is an important lesson for Hamilton: we are not at the mercy of our own past choices. We are where we are today because of a long series of decisions that reflected our values and priorities. If we want our future to look different, we need to make different decisions. It's that simple.

One thing is for certain: we can no longer accept the fatalistic sneer "This is Hamilton!" as a legitimate reason not to do something.

It can be an uphill struggle to create a bicycle-friendly city
It can be an uphill struggle to create a bicycle-friendly city

This article was first published in the July, 2011 issue of Urbanicity.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 07:17:21

Great article, Ryan.

I lived in Paris from 1994-1998, and the interesting thing is that I didn't even notice the development of the first 50km of bike lanes. However, I do remember the 1995 public transit strike that forced residents to try to walk or cycle long distances (they even added special ferries on the Seine to bring people in from the suburbs). That was the first time I saw any bikes on the streets, but when the strike was over they were gone again.

I also remember a lot of media attention around the announcement that 400 Parisians a year die from air pollution. This was based on a new type of epidemiological statistical analysis, and surprised many people. It was a wake-up call that air pollution is not just annoying, it can kill.

I never rode a bike in Paris during the four years I lived there, and I still can't quite believe the transformation. Despite having ridden regularly in Vancouver, Cambridge and now in Hamilton I always thought riding in Paris was foolhardy (and unpleasant). Like other cities, a positive transformation requires a firm strategic vision, and then a continuing sequence of concrete actions over many years to achieve it.

Note that in Paris the first tentative steps where taken by Tiberi (conservative) and accelerated by Delanoe (socialist). In Copenhagen as well the bike-friendly strategy has been pursued over decades by many different municipal councils. It would be nice to see such a continuity of effort here in Hamilton.

Of course Paris has also been constantly building its rapid transit systems (inter-urban rail, subway, bus and more recently LRT) for many years, but that's another story!

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 08:08:15

the frustrating thing is, these aren't even difficult, massive decisions. They are basic, simple, easy to execute and very easy to fund (cycling). Great article. Very clearly illustrates would 'could be' here in our fine city.

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By BratBro (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 08:53:16


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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 09:14:40

If we want our future to look different, we need to make different decisions. It's that simple.

While we look to our elected officials to provide leadership, I'm not so sure we have this in Hamilton. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that I'm not convinced many people take any amount of time at all to consider whether or not they want their future to look different...so taking the next step, getting the decisions made to reflect this viewpoint, is beyond comprehension...indeed, beyond motivation.

Vision can't be left to the 'average person', because they're quite content with the status quo. (Or, being manipulated in this marketplace-democracy we've constructed.) And because the way things are in Hamilton, our Council doesn't seem to want to risk anything with 'visionary thinking'.

So really, who's left to 'sell' everyone on what might be?

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 10:02:42

Love this:

One begins to assume they spring fully formed, like Athena, from the foreheads of their founders, operating under the aegis of their masterful design.

This article reminds me why I want to see Copenhagen first hand aside from the fact that its my 96 year-old grandfathers last travelling wish. They are getting it right on so many levels.

I love that RTH allows us to hear from people who have seen these initiatives like bicycle lanes an LRT, work first hand in other countries.

With all the articles on here about walkability and the endless benefits of LRT, you are helping us see that the benefits of implementing these things that will help us stray from our current car culture, are critical to our growth and our scary dependence on oil.

I am embarassed to admit on this forum that I haven't owned a bike since I got my license almost the day I turned 16. Last time I rode one I was living with a friend and rode his bent-wheeled bike to work and back until I could afford to fix my car. That was forever ago. Is it true you never forget to ride?

Its something I need to change about myself. I need to stop not doing things because I don't know how they work. Like how one attaches a bike to a bus or the rules around taking a bicycle on the train. I most definately need the excercise that is for certain.

2 years ago I was a transit/train newb and it was a bit of a frustrating learning curve but now I almost daily share the knowledge more experienced riders once taught me. I am still learning to this day about things that continually make taking transit, less of an inconvenience and more something I can feel good about. Of course, I'd much rather work in Hamilton than commute 2.5 hours but that's a whole different story.

The point is, so much in life is avoided because of the fear of change and of the unknown. Being open to new ideas can surprise you with how that change wasn't all that bad or even more often than not, how that change is so much better in so many ways.

Thanks Ryan and countless other RTH contributors and members, for opening our eyes to how we can not only create a better future, but feel good about that change as well.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-07 10:45:39

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By adrian (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 11:24:18 in reply to Comment 65693

Is it true you never forget to ride?

It's true! And it's super fun, too.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 12:05:45 in reply to Comment 65714

lol Adrian. I have been tempted a few times to take out my wifes purple 'girls' bike. :) Not sure if it actually works but it looks nice hanging from the garage rafters.

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By Logo (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 10:30:29

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-07-07 10:43:39

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By mb (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 11:40:22


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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 16:07:21 in reply to Comment 65719



In most cases, traveling through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop on a bike is absolutely safe, as is stopping, looking, and proceding through a red light if nothing's coming. What's important is that you do look, and that you are able to stop if you need to.

Legality does not equal safety.

This topic has received a fair bit of coverage on here in the past... http://raisethehammer.org/article/608/ch...

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:36:08 in reply to Comment 65719

mb screeches


Granting the legitimate criticisms below, I believe that there really is something to mb's rant. A large portion (perhaps a majority) of cyclists do appear to behave lawlessly: they run stop signs, they move onto cross walks and side walks at whim, they don't signal, the slide up along the right out of nowhere.

Now, I learned to obey the rules of the road (use hand signal; obey signs; stay off the sidewalk; behave as traffic) years before I learned to drive. When I went to junior high school in Stratford, the police department gave traffic training at the schools. And they staked out the approaches to the schools in September and in the Spring, stopping cyclists and issuing warnings and tickets. After being stopped for my third offense (how did he know, I wonder), I was threatened with having my bike confiscated*.

Hamilton in 2011 is not Stratford in 1980, so the method might not translate simply. But I do note that telling cyclists "STOP RUNNING STOP SIGNS" can be effective**.

* That may have been an idle or illegal threat, I realize now.

** Though I might also note that the one time I was run over by a car (well, my bike, not me), I was stopped at a stop sign in Stratford. The driver was drunk; he got off with a warning - my Dad blew a gasket; the driver bought me a new bike.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-07-07 15:03:36

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By arienc (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 16:27:17 in reply to Comment 65743

It's funny how people are only willing to point out the lawbreaking activity of others.

Meanwhile, I have yet to meet a single motorist who follows the posted speed limit or always stops at the designated stop line.

People all break the rules, however they just choose to break different ones.

Most motorists abide by the unwritten rule of "keeping up with traffic" rather than travelling no faster than the speed that the sign says you must drive.

Likewise, a large number of cyclists act according to the "Idaho Stop" rules, where stop signs (which are largely designed to calm automobile traffic) are treated as yields to conserve muscle energy.

If we made providing infrastructure conditional on either group always following the written rules, then there would be no roads, bike paths or sidewalks.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 15:14:39 in reply to Comment 65743

I too knew the rules to bicycle safety long before getting my drivers license. I also recieved two police citations for going through stop signs as a kid too. :) I wasn't fast enough. Most of my friends who I was riding with, got away.

I rode my bike hockey stick in hand, all over the Hamilton mountain back in those days. No helmut, and I never once got hurt once or even recall coming close to being hit.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-07 15:16:56

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By Akbar (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 12:40:09 in reply to Comment 65719

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-08-08 22:34:24

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 13:08:01 in reply to Comment 65726

Yes, MB's statement is true. I seen a cyclist fly through a red light on Barton Street right through Ottawa Street yesterday. It was a very dangerous and stupid thing to do. I also look at that roadside memorial that still exists for Matthew Power at Gage and King all these years later, and am reminded of dumb-ass drivers as well. In the case of Matthew the property term would be murderers actually.

But Ryan is perfectly right to say that MB's comment is not valid to this discussion because that is not where we start. It is a problem yes. Point it out because it is dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians and cyclists, but stopping cyclicsts from running stop signs or red lights or obeying the laws of the road in general, is not where we start. That statement is no different than the argument that adding more bike lanes is a dumb idea because there aren't a lot of bicycles on the road.

It's the circle affect. Youa re not going to have more riders on the roads if we don't find ways to make cycling safer.

And if people who actually do care about this city bugger off as you are wishing above, we are in a whole lot of trouble becuase if all that we are left with is the crap you just spewed above, Hamilton is going to hell in a coke oven.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-07 13:15:39

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted July 08, 2011 at 09:24:49 in reply to Comment 65730

Just sold the house and am taking my 5 bikes (and family) to the east coast in August. 32 year hamiltonian out.

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By Akbar (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 09:36:44 in reply to Comment 65811

insult spam deleted

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 13:03:20 in reply to Comment 65726

Akbar, I must disagree with your odious ad hominem attack on Ryan. I would deeply miss Ryan if he were to bugger off to Portland, Brooklyn or Estonia (something which I'm sure has crossed his mind over the years).

Akbar, on the other hand, I hear Berlin is beautiful this time of year.

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By Akbar (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 18:10:58 in reply to Comment 65729

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Akbar (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 18:10:20 in reply to Comment 65729

insult spam deleted

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 08:46:42 in reply to Comment 65773

Lawrence, you know as well as I do that the unrwitten undercurrent to any debate on here re: transportation, is that cars are bad and RTHers are wonderful because they ride bikes. I think that the underlying poing of MBs comment, which I understand to be "people might be more responsive to cycle friendly policy, if they didn't just nearly wing some clown who blew through an intersection on his bike", is a worthwhile contribution to the discussion. If you want to get pissy at the heaps of BS spewed by all of the Joshes and Meghans on this site as well, then I'll give you a modicum of respect. If you'll do as other RTHers do and single out people who disagree with them for criticism regarding their posts, then forget it.

Here's where your wrong. Cars are not bad by definition, it's just bad that they are effectively the only recognized and accepted form of transportation. Public transit is grudgingly accepted, bikes are frowned upon and pedestrians are simply in the way when it comes to setting transit priorities in this city.

I'm almost exclusively a car driver yet I'd love to see bikes and public transit made a priority.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 08, 2011 at 16:22:50 in reply to Comment 65807

I am with Brandon. I am an 'RTHer' and I don't ride a bike. I'd like to and would love to see some of these things implemented to make it safer for cyclists in turn attracting more riders.

I wasn't centering out MB by any means. I just understood why the way he/she stated his fact, wasn't neccesarily helpful to the conversation. If it was merely stated that this is something we have to address, okay. Absolutely true. But to 'start' there. That is the word that changed the sentence and he/she went on to clarify more clearly in a subsequent post and all is good in the world again.

That is not where we 'start' our quest to follow in the footstepts of these leading communities like Paris and Copenhagen. It's just something that we try to continue to stress as something bicyclists need to think of. But the 'stressing' needs to go both ways. But you are never going to completely make that problem go away as others have stated, or as even was mentioned, maybe in some cases the requiring of a full-stop isn't all the critical if you are talking about a survey and the cyclist/driver slows down enough to have a good look to see whether it's safe to slowly continue through the intersection.

Not sure how I feel about that last statement as I know on the streets in my neighborhood, stop signs are only at every other corner and with street parking, houses close to the corners, hedges, large trees, kids, cyclists, other vehicles, animals, etc., stops should be at every corner and even entrances to these areas blocked off from the main roads perhaps at every other street as well. We need to slow down traffic and do away with people (cabbies most notably), using our streets as alternative routes from Barton to Main Street. That's what the Ottawa's and Kenilworths and Wellington's of our world are for.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-07-08 16:25:47

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By Akbar (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 11:06:08 in reply to Comment 65807

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted July 11, 2011 at 12:32:12 in reply to Comment 65836

Bike lanes that don't link to other bike lanes, councilors vetoing bike lanes in their specific areas. LRT not running down Main St because it would interfere with the flow of cars on that magnificent highway. Intersections being deemed so dangerous to pedestrians that a sign telling them not to cross is required, yet not being dangerous enough to require a crosswalk.

Why on earth would anyone think that bikes and transit are secondary to cars?

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By rednic (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 13:50:40

I rode professionaly in toronto for 10 years ( oh all right i was a bike courier) ... but i learned one thing during that time.. and respect for others (especially smaller) in the main route to road saftey...

And that often means looking at the situation from the other drivers/Cyclists perspective.

Part of the problem (livng in the lower city ) is that it seems drivers view ALL cyclists as an impediment to the m making the net light, ( and in Hamilton twist) oh they are on a bike in the lower city, he must be cracked out). the few times i've been up on the mountain car drivers seem to view you differently. The long and the short of I have simple solution to the madness of main and king ( which are more dangerous that toronto 20 years ago ) .. it's called king william ..

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted July 08, 2011 at 09:33:48 in reply to Comment 65737

I for one have worked near the SPCA for 8 years and commuted from the East end and the West mountain. I can tell you from experience that i prefer taking the radial trail down the east side, go through Corktown, Charlton to Aberdeen back up the radial trail along scenic than i do cutting across the "mountain" during afternoon rush hour. The drivers on the mountain are beligerant, and the closer you get to a "linc" interchange or sLimeridge mall the worse it gets.

The bike lane on Stonechurch now that it is continuous is a great thing but the lights are so horribly timed it drive me bonkers. That and people like to park in the bike lanes, especially the super craptacular one on West 5th.

Which reminds me what's with not having a bike lane from Stonechurch to limeridge?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2011 at 14:19:31 in reply to Comment 65737

rednic says ...

Part of the problem (livng in the lower city ) is that it seems drivers view ALL cyclists as an impediment to the m making the net light, ( and in Hamilton twist) oh they are on a bike in the lower city, he must be cracked out).

This is a problem limited to Main and King, in my experience. In Westdale and West Hamilton and Dundas - even on Main St W - I generally find drivers to be courteous to a fault*. I think you've hit the nail on the head: on Main & King downtown, one (including this one) is hell bent on surfing the green wave.

I think that the antagonism toward bicycles is not very deep for most of the population. And getting rid of the green wave would make for much friendlier streets. James North is a perfectly nice street for walking, driving and biking now that the traffic is slightly halting (though James South I find uncomfortable because of the rush to ward the mountain).

* For example ....

  • waiting at a four way for me to blow through it;
  • drivers going straight waiting for me to take my left-hand turn.

I try to be friendly as I motion for them exercise their right of way.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-07-07 14:23:55

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By mb (registered) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 15:17:31

Seeing that my comment resulted in some interesting replies, I feel the need to clarify. At no point did I say that cyclists should stay off the road, or should not be allowed to share the road. Also, at no point in my brief post did I say there should not be bike lanes. It is safer for everyone (cyclists and pedestrians especially) for cyclists to travel on the road.

What I am saying is that cyclists need to be educated more as to the rules of the road. Sorry, Ryan, but I see far more cyclists running stop signs, not signaling, then I do motorists (just because they're cyclists doesn't make them saints). They need to learn (how to do this I don't know)that the rules of the road apply to them. They should suffer the same consequences for disobeying the law that motorists do. For all the times I have seen cyclists not signaling or running stop signs, not once have I seen a police officer writing out a ticket for them. I guess since they're being 'green', they get a free pass.

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By just me (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2011 at 16:15:40


letters Thurs nytimes.com

Yes, this is copyright bad, but here for interest only--

July 6, 2011
Getting More Women to Bike in New York City

To the Editor:

“Women, Uneasy, Still Lag as Cyclists” (news article, July 4) misses the full story of gender imbalance on two wheels. The gap between male and female bike riders is a concern for cities across the nation, but in New York this gap has narrowed every year since 2003, and female bike ridership is actually increasing at a faster rate than male ridership.

The article relied exclusively on limited data that do not account for 82 percent of bike trips made in New York City — counting only those who bike to work every single day while ignoring all other bike trips, including those made for school, recreation, to visit friends or run errands, and occasional commuting.

The risk of serious injury or death to commuter cyclists in New York City has dropped by 75 percent in the last decade. The fact that cycling has become safer over the last 10 years is indisputable, but we need to make more progress. Innovations like protected bike lanes are bringing even better safety results for everyone who bikes, walks or drives on our streets.

Commissioner, New York City
Department of Transportation
New York, July 5, 2011

To the Editor:

Your article highlighted several legitimate concerns that female cyclists have in New York, including safety and the impropriety of showing up at work or social events sweaty from a vigorous workout.

At least today women can determine their own parameters for appropriate bicycle conduct.

During the bicycle boom of the 1890s, gallons of printer’s ink were used to debate what female cyclists should wear, and many periodicals castigated those they thought were too bold. One example:

On Oct. 14, 1893, the weekly Sporting Life expressed dismay that a female cyclist had committed “an outrage upon decency and good morals.” Her sin? After riding in City Hall Park, the woman walked her bike through city streets while still in “male attire” (knickerbockers). As she passed the offices of The New York Sun, a gathering of newsboys let loose with a flurry of rude comments. Sporting Life opined that while female cyclists should enjoy their sport in comfortable clothing, they should not wear their bicycle outfits while walking.

It concluded, “We regret to see that cycling has at least one woman who so far forgets her own self-respect as to make a public exhibition of herself for the jeers of street gamins and the jibes of corner loafers.”

Englewood, N.J., July 4, 2011

The writer is the author of “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way).”

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 07:42:35

"We are not at the mercy of our own past choices. We are where we are today because of a long series of decisions that reflected our values and priorities. If we want our future to look different, we need to make different decisions."

Could not agree more. That applies first and foremost to electing the leaders that we do and being, on the whole, a politically disengaged populace (except as pertains to the zero tax increase). It is also attributable to every action in our daily lives.

BTW, even though I admire the hell out of Vélib' (and here I risk being labelled a squelcher), Paris and Hamilton occupy different dynamics. Quite apart from the historical support for alternative transportation (a subway system that marks its 111th birthday later this month, plus trams and inter-urban rail), Paris has a population density of around 3,550/km2 and the added bonus of 27 million tourists annually. Those sorts of factors seem to influence the success rate of these kind of programs in North America.


Still, here's something interesting: There are 300,000 parking spaces in inner Paris, and 80,000 parking spaces for two-wheeled vehicles. Even in parking they're ahead of the curve!

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By jtford (registered) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 10:14:21

One word, winter. Why we should put more than token resources into something that can only be used at most 6 months of the year as being touted as a transportation alternative, I'll never know.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 08, 2011 at 17:06:56 in reply to Comment 65820

One word, winter.

One link: Winter Cycling in Hamilton in One Easy Step

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By jtford (registered) | Posted July 09, 2011 at 22:37:11 in reply to Comment 65896

When it is hard to get the car out of the driveway, the absolute last thing on my mind is a bicycle!

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By AMK (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 13:49:10

Fraid to say this is a romantic vision of Nuclear France which - maybe - is cutting visible air pollution in cities using bicycle transport, but has a State technocratic elite determined and desperate to get anybody, anywhere hooked on the lethally dangerous products of its State-owned Dark Nuclear corporation, Areva

To be sure, they only want cash, like any elites.

Bertrand Delanoe, the clean and green Parti Socialiste (PS) mayor of Paris, a long-term PS stalwart and official PS spokesman for many years, including 1986, had no problem at all lying all day and night about "le nuage de Tchernobyl", the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 that his boss Francois Mitterand claimed somehow missed France and stopped dead at France's frontiers. French nuclear power is clean and green: ask Bertrand Delanoe

Just a liar and a cheat - so lets not waste time listening to his Bicycle BS

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 14:08:31

"The average price of a Paris apartment fell to 8,885 euros a square meter in May from 9,165 euros at the end of 2010, the Databiens index shows."

That works out to 825 EUR/sq.ft.

Perhaps the dream of a dense city suits the well educated and well paid, but how many average families want to live in a 300 sq.ft apartment?

For people of average wages, the dream of an affordable home necessarily involves sprawl, which is probably why most people prefer the car than bike lanes and transit.

Do you have any ideas on how to address the affordability issue associated with dense cities?

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By s&d (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 14:13:05 in reply to Comment 65852

"Do you have any ideas on how to address the affordability issue associated with dense cities?"

It's basic economics. Increase the supply.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2011 at 15:05:14 in reply to Comment 65854

The average price of a condo in downtown Portland ranges from $500-800/sq.ft.

The average price of a home outside the downtown is around $150/sq.ft.

How many more units would you need to add to Portland's inner city to bring them down to $150/sq.ft?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 08, 2011 at 23:51:26 in reply to Comment 65861

First off, thanks for bringing up the downsides of sky-high property values.

As for the house/condo dichotomy, you'd probably see that anywhere, including here (though perhaps not to the same extent). Condos are a very expensive option in general, and in most cases one could buy a much larger house for the same price, especially once fees are taken into account. Obviously, there's an element of false economy here - a condo is cheaper to build, needs less space, raw materials, energy and social investment, but it doesn't seem to reflect well in prices.

Also, it's worth noting that the income geography of typical European city is the reverse of North America's. In a city like Paris, suburbs exist for the poor, and have for centuries (Montmartre being the best known example), whereas urban cores are home to the wealthy. When you think of French suburbs, picture Scarborough, not Ancaster.

Does intensification have to mean gentrification or exclusion? Of course not (consider Hamilton's densest 'hoods). It is something that needs to be brought up, though. A very large number of people, especially those already in the inner-city, can't afford to pay for condos. And since none of us want slums, and most don't want sprawl either, this leaves a pretty big gap in current development plans.

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By mb (registered) | Posted July 11, 2011 at 16:17:51

If you want Paris, then go live in Paris.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2011 at 22:21:39 in reply to Comment 65968

If you want Paris, then go live in Paris.

And where should one go if one wants to live in a better Hamilton.

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By Yeah (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2011 at 09:13:08

Wow, what an interesting discussion :)

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