Cycling Through A Canopy Of Green – In Vogue In Paris
By I-Chu Lin
Bicycles, like baguettes and cafes, have always been an indispensable part of scenes of Paris. It almost seems to say, “I know how to slow down and enjoy!” But apart from the stereotype, what place does the bicycle occupy in French life?
In 1903, L'Équipe, a French newspaper, launched the Tour de France in order to stimulate circulation. In just five years, the circulation jumped from 25,000 to 250,000 and the iconic, international event has lasted to this day. The well-known film animation "Les triplettes de Belleville" set the Tour de France as its background, showcasing French passion for cycling as a sport.
But in real life, do Parisians really love their bicycles? 60% of Parisians think that riding a bicycle to work is dangerous because France is known to be a kingdom of car brands, and the road is not always friendly to cyclists. Although cyclists enjoy the same absolute right of way as pedestrians, there are very few dedicated lanes for bicycles. They often must vie with cars in traffic and are always the more vulnerable one on the road.
Stein van Oosteren, a Dutch who immigrated to France and a cycle-savvy intellectual, told the French: "Why have bicycles developed faster in the Netherlands than in France? Because the Dutch have thought of everything to ignite interest for riding bicycles in its citizens. When you search the word "cycliste" in Google in France, what you see are photos of top-tier riders decked out in full gear. However, when you Google the same word in the Netherlands, you find photos of ordinary people riding a bike to the grocers. For us, a bicycle is an art of life! "
In the past ten years, the tide of environmental protection has surged, especially among Bobos (bourgeois bohemians) like Stein, who carry with them firm beliefs. The so-called Parisian petty bourgeoisie are independent thinkers who advocate an organic lifestyle. They wear suits and dresses, bicycle to work, and defend their right of way.
In 2007, Vélib, a public bike rental system in Paris finally launched. Bicycle lanes have finally appeared on major roads, and fantastic bicycle lanes have been opened by the river. In 2017, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot announced that France plans to completely ban the sale of fuel vehicles by 2040. This summer, the “Réseau Expresse Vélo – REVe” – which means “dream road” and is a plan for dedicated fast bike lanes – was launched across Paris. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo injected limitless confidence for the cyclists when she shouted to Parisians: “Let Paris become a world-class bicycle capital!”
Some people say: Paris has not changed for a century, and it can't keep up with world trends. But in reality, once Paris takes to the wind, it will easily catch up, and even overtake others. Facts on the ground also show that the latest Paris scenes are bicycles, electric scooters or electric wheels running on both sides of a boulevard of green canopy. And they have stepped it up : The bicycle has risen to be the No. 1 Christmas gift most wanted by the French.