Easing up rules for cyclists in Paris

PARIS -- New rules of the road announced the increasingly bike-friendly French capital. The new measures aim to keep circulation flowing and to prevent fines for a common transgression.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – The city is relaxing traffic laws for bikes throughout the city, implementing new rules to make circulation flow more easily.  On Tuesday the city council announced that turning on red will soon be permitted for cyclists under certain conditions as Paris becomes even more bike-friendly.

Ever since the 2007 introduction of the bike sharing Vélib program, the city has striven to make streets safer for cyclists.  From creating bike paths to closing streets to cars on certain days, Paris has evolved towards greener and healthier forms of transportation.  In 2010 cyclists were given the right to travel both directions in one-way streets where the speed limit was under 30kph.  Now, by allowing riders to turn right on red, Paris is giving cycles even more freedom on the roads while addressing traffic concerns.

At intersections, cyclists can now turn on red, or continue through certain T-intersections where right turns aren’t possible.  Of course pedestrians still have the right of way.  The city hopes that this measure will help prevent bikes from piling up around automobiles at intersections, creating a more fluid flow of traffic.

With fines for turning right on red reaching 90 euros, cycling culture in Paris borders on two extremes.  On one end, there are those who adhere to all of the rules diligently.  On the other end, there are those who carefully, but seemingly recklessly break the law.  The new rule now allows cyclists to turn on red without repercussion.

Canadian-born Halley Barnet has been riding the streets of Paris for two years.  Though never formally versed in French traffic laws, he has talked to drivers to learn the rules of the road and he strives, usually, to abide by them.  He said that the new rules seem relatively moot since most cyclists don’t pay attention to the rules anyway.  He is more concerned with both drivers and bikers paying attention to their surroundings.

“In terms of bikes building up, there are sometimes groups of cyclists waiting at light but I’ve never perceived that as a big problem,” he said.  The biggest advantage of the new laws, he said, is that police will no longer ticket bikers for turning on red.

Despite many lanes designed just for bikes, being on the right of traffic, Barnet said, can be a big problem.  Riding along the right sides of automobiles is a difficult position to be in.  “Cars would turn right without looking.  At the same time, there’s nowhere else to go,” he said.

Hopefully the law will help bikers and drivers coexist better on the road.  Whatever the result, Barnet supports less stringent rules for cyclists.  “The goal on a bike is getting away from cars as much as possible and one of the ways is to run red lights,” he said.

Photo: Gideon Malias/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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