What American Cities Can Learn About Bicycling From Paris

Mayor Anne Hidalgo's big ideas might work just as well Stateside

Bikes in Paris, France
If the U.S. wants to get serious about bicycling, they need to look at Paris.
Serge Melk/Creative Commons

Bicycling can be a great way to get around in cities: it reduces carbon emissions, keeps people fit and reduces traffic congestion. It’s no surprise, then, that bicycling factors into the platforms of several Democratic hopefuls. While removing cars from large chunks of cities has gotten more of a foothold in Europe than in the United States, some American cities — notably, San Francisco — are beginning to experiment with this as a policy. And bike-share programs are becoming more and more popular among Americans.

A new article by Patrick Sisson at Curbed looks at one major global city whose embrace of bicycling stands as a fascinating phenomenon in its own right, while also offering a template for how other cities might implement something similar. That city is Paris — and its mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has taken a transformative role in how the city handles bicycling.

In the grand scheme of things, these changes in policy — which include making certain areas car-free and increasing the number of bicycle lanes — don’t simply apply to the residents of, and visitors to, Paris. As Sisson puts it:

Hidalgo’s efforts have also set an example that U.S. cities should follow: Think big, and don’t be afraid to talk about climate change and transportation.

Her plans have resonated with Parisians; more and more people are commuting to work by bicycle, and the cleaner air has warmed the hearts of plenty of the city’s residents.

Among the reasons Sisson cites for the plan’s success: it was implemented on a citywide level, rather than piecemeal. Can a similar plan click in American cities? Given the rise of bicycle lanes across the country, it’s not hard to see an equivalent to Hidalgo’s Plan Velo taking off with people on this side of the Atlantic.

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