Cities all around the world are recommending people to stay positive and indulge in exercises whilst maintaining social distancing rules. With this in mind, Paris is all set to construct 650-km of post-lockdown cycleways. By Upasana Singh

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recommended—“whenever feasible, consider riding bicycles or walking” in its new technical guidance document titled Moving around during the COVID-19 Outbreak. Cycling and walking are two forms of exercises that allow social distancing as well as meeting the minimum requirement for daily physical activity — states the WHO guidance. During this time of Coronavirus, it is extremely important for people around the world to take care of their health. Due to limited access to sports facilities and other recreational activities, cities have been giving cyclists and pedestrians generous space on roads that are generally meant for motorists.

 

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Paris is the latest city to create 650 km of space for emergency bike lanes during the lockdown. Primarily meant for key workers, the lanes are expected to be ready by May 11 after lockdown restrictions are eased in France. A number of pop-up ‘corona cycleways’ will be included in this project.

Before COVID-19 hit Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo had promised that every street in the city would be cycle-friendly by 2024. However, owing to the fear of gridlock by increased car traffic post lockdown the officials are taking quick actions to accelerate the changes. This will enable easing of lockdown restrictions in the most suitable conditions.

According to Hidalgo’s plans, 72 per cent of Paris’ on-street car parking spaces were to be removed. The plan shows promise as during France’s 46-day transit strike last year, many straphangers switched to cycling. This doubled the number of cyclists on Parisian roads. Some months after the strike, the numbers continued to remain high.

 

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The Île-de-France region has pledged financial support for the pre-existing RER (Réseau Express Régional, or Regional Express Line) project that will link the centre of Paris with key suburbs. An amount of 300 million euros has been determined to part-pay for a mix of new infrastructure and temporary ‘corona cycleways’ that will be marked out by traffic wands.

Besides Paris, 116 towns and cities including Lille, Dijon, Rouen, Le Mans, and St Etienne are planning to build such temporary cycleways. Some are planning it for the duration of the current lockdown and some others for the next few months. In the coming days, the French government will also bring out the publication of new national cycleway guidelines.

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