The French government has invested €20m to spur cycling after the lockdown, including a subsidy for bike repairs. Picture: REUTERS
The French government has invested €20m to spur cycling after the lockdown, including a subsidy for bike repairs. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — Some of the busiest traffic arteries in Paris have been reserved for cyclists to limit crowds on public transport when France began lifting its coronavirus lockdown this week, the city’s mayor said.

“In total, 50km of lanes normally used by cars will be reserved for bicycles,” Anne Hidalgo told the Parisien newspaper. She also said another 30 streets would be made pedestrian-only, “in particular around schools to avoid groups of people”.

The mayor announced previously that the Rue de Rivoli, the main east-west thoroughfare through the heart of the French capital, would be only for bicycles from Monday. Other streets will include the Boulevard Saint-Michel in the Left Bank’s Saint-Germain neighbourhood, and the express tunnel under the chaotic roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe.

Many Paris suburbs have also announced plans for new bicycle lanes, hoping to reduce pressure on heavily used commuter trains and buses as well as the Paris metro, where many seats will now be off-limits to keep people apart.

Paris officials braced for the return of residents after an estimated 20%-25% of its population of about 2.2-million fled to country homes or elsewhere before the nationwide stay-at-home orders came into effect on March 17.

Health experts warn that the social distancing necessary to avoid a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases will be difficult in large cities, especially for people who rely on mass transport to get to work.

Hidalgo has been pushing for years to reduce car use in the capital by reducing lanes and speed limits, and closing off dozens of streets completely.

She said some of the street closures could be made permanent after the crisis has passed. “I know that the majority of Parisians do not want to see a return of cars and pollution,” the mayor said.

The French government has unveiled a €20m package to spur cycling after the lockdown, including a subsidy for bike repairs.

AFP