Comment 65683

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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