Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Coronavirus Lanes in Paris Anger Locals

Coronavirus Lanes in Paris Anger Locals

Wednesday, 16 September, 2020 - 07:15
People ride on their bicycles in The Champs Elysees Avenue, in Paris, on May 11, 2020. (AFP/Bertrand Guay)

Parisians have been increasingly complaining about the municipality's efforts to reduce car use and promote bicycles. Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has angered drivers by taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to turn parts of the city's main roads into bicycle lanes.

Owners of tourism companies, who are hardly hit by the pandemic, have also raised their voices. They said in a statement that the municipality's decision has distorted the capital described as the most beautiful city in the world. Paris' main squares are now equipped with movable concrete walls that separate cars and bicycle lanes, in addition to yellow plastic barriers which Parisians call "fungi."

To defend their point of view, the protestors shared photos showing Paris before and after the alterations of its streets, and postal cards that feature the city with its passable streets free of barriers distorting the view. Legal measures have also been taken by Lawyer Patrick Tabet who submitted an urgent request on behalf of the Car Owners Association to object the so-called "coronavirus lanes" in main streets.

However, the mayor still insists on "cycling" the capital by turning its center into a bicycle space, following the steps of other capitals including Beijing and Amsterdam. But Parisians have the right to use any transportation they want as long as those who use their personal cars do not exceed tenth of the capital's population.

In addition, official figures show that many bicycle users have been subject to collision accidents and drivers' violations on the unprotected narrow lanes. In response to the accusations of distorting the beauty of the city, the municipality said the lanes are a temporary measure that will be applied until the pandemic declines, and it aims at urging people to use bicycles to go to schools, universities, and offices in order to protect them from the increased infection risks in the congested public transport.

"It is a stupid measure," said the spokesperson for the Free Driving Association, noting that a personal car is much safer and protect against the infection more than metros and bicycles, which expose users to higher risks because they don't ensure social distancing. Many also see that the municipality's plan of dedicating lanes for pedestrians and cyclers aims at restricting drivers' activity and preventing people from using personal cars in their daily commutes. This plan has harmed owners of restaurants, hotels, and stores in the heart of the capital, as many customers cannot reach them anymore.

Editor Picks