Amsterdam, Paris is Coming for You

On Tuesday I hopped on a ‘Ouigo’ (low-cost TGV – bring a bottle of water with you!) for a 3-hour train ride to Paris. I went to see a few friends who either happened to be in town, or happened to live there. After I had lunch with one friend (with wine) and a pint with another, I stumbled down Blvd Saint Germain to Herr Kaa and La Canadienne’s place (where another beer was offered on arrival). A lovely dinner near the Museum of Medieval History wrapped up Tuesday, with one more drink, obviously.

Knowing K&S like I do, I was sure there’d be some physical activity the next morning, so I made sure I hydrated well all night and woke up ready to ride. Our mission this morning was to ride up and get a good gander at this.

This is the Arc de Triomphe wrapped up, if you need to be told. It’s an art piece by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. But I know what you’re asking; how did you get to this place by bike? Why didn’t you just take the Metro?

I’ve been visiting Paris regularly since we got to France 13 years ago and I wrote an article in 2011 about the new-ish Velib bike hire system back then, commenting how bike friendly the city was becoming. That seems pretty quaint now, given the complete transformation that has taken place in Paris, at least on the large boulevards and streets we rode on.

This is the big, one-way street that cruises down the Seine on the Left Bank. Notice the separation of bikes and cars.

After turning left and crossing the Seine, we ended up on the quai, which used to be a road not many years ago, but is now a city part and totally devoted to bikes, runners and gendarmes on horses.

After the quai we popped out near the Place de la Concorde and bounced up the cobbles of the Champs Elysées to see our wrapped arch, then 7 kilometers to Place de la Bastille, all on cycling ‘roads’, i.e. no cars anywhere near you. In fact, the Rue de Rivoli, the arrow-straight road that passes by the Louvre, is now all bike lanes except for one for delivery vans, buses and taxis. I didn’t take any photos because we flew down that street too fast, but this could be it, or something like it in Paris.

Much of this we can thank Covid for. The Mayor really took advantage of our various lockdowns to speed up her plan to pedestrianise Paris (this goes for the terrace we ate on the night before, too, I might add). Also thanks to Covid (and all these great bike lanes), 2020 saw a 60% increase in the use of bikes in Paris and Karsten showed me one of many pop-up shops that specialize in cycling paraphernalia, like helmets, lights and the all-essential bell. On some major streets there are more bikes than cars now and it looks like the departments that surround Paris are building long-distance cycling paths to connect communities.

It’s a French Revolution.