How the Paris Cycle Network Was Created Bottom-Up

Paris cycling network

Cyclists are increasingly dominating the streets in Paris. To everyone's surprise, the French capital has changed from a car city to a bicycle city in just a few years. But how did this happen?

Never Waste a Good Crisis

Since the onset of the pandemic, the mobility landscape has changed dramatically in cities around the world, with bicycle networks becoming increasingly important in public spaces. In several countries, cycling proved to be a solution to cope with the consequences of the health measures, as it allowed everyone to avoid overcrowded public transport without resorting to private cars. Paris is one of the cities where remarkable work has been done to create a good efficient network, experiment with temporary bicycle lanes, and make them permanent after a thorough evaluation process involving citizens.

Paris cycling network
Photo by Chris93 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Momentum for Bottom-Up

But what is interesting about the way it was done in Paris is that the initiative actually came from actors other than the government. For some time there had been associations encouraging cycling and working hard to develop the RER V, a reference to the city’s train network. Even before the pandemic, two of those associations, Mieux se Déplacer à Bicyclette and Paris en Selle, had presented their ideas to the candidates for the municipal elections, making cycling a hot topic in Parisian politics.

Even before the pandemic, cyclists’ associations managed to make cycling a hot topic in Parisian politics

When a lockdown was declared in response to the pandemic, the government had to think about the consequences in terms of mobility and find a concrete solution before these strict measures expired. Since the bicycle associations already had an entire bicycle network ready on the drawing board and were willing to answer all technical questions about its implementation, the municipality was offered a ready-made solution and the first experiments could soon begin.

Paris cycling network
Photo by Serguei Trouchelle (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Inspiring Other Cities to Do the Same

The city is doing such a good job that it is inspiring the rest of the country, as many French cities are now also developing similar long-term plans for cycling networks. The work of the associations, which are part of the European Cyclists’ Federation, is finally bearing fruit.