Driving & Drivers, Paris
Despite all the efforts that have been made in recent years to reduce motor traffic and re-allocate urban space, the sad fact of the matter is that Paris still has a huge car problem.
Here we are a dozen years into the 21st century, and people are still storming through the streets in their pollution machines as though they were back in the 1960s and didn’t know any better.
My first photo is from the top of the Arch of Triumph, looking down at ten lanes of cars on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées – a truly disgusting spectacle. From the top of the Arch you fortunately can’t smell the exhaust fumes, but you can certainly hear the traffic noise, the same incessant humming that you hear if you happen to live near a motorway, punctuated with the individual roars of sports cars or motorcycles as they accelerate wildly when the lights change.
Second, third and fourth photos: As I have mentioned before, one of the more vicious acts of vandalism in recent Paris history was the destruction of the right bank in the 1960s for the purpose of installing the Voie Express Georges Pompidou, an expressway for eastbound motor vehicles by the side of the River Seine. Supposedly there are plans to change this in some way, but so far I haven’t seen any progress.
Update 2013: Some limited improvements have recently been made on the right bank. See my tips The right bank of the Seine and Square du port-de-l’Hôtel-de-Ville.
Fifth photo: On the rue Saint-Antoine, near place de la Bastille, I discovered this yellow sign reading “Piste cyclable neutralisée”, meaning that the bicycle lane has been neutralized, eliminated, done away with. At the bottom of the sign someone has added a handwritten question: “Quand est-ce qu’on neutralise les bagnoles?” This means: “When are they going to neutralize the cars?”
Next review from June 2012: Voiturier
As a tourist, do you really want to drive in Paris?
Well, we didn't, we booked into a Hotel just outside and caught the RER into Paris central, 20 minute trip. Even where we were, it still was very busy. There is no need to drive in the centre of Paris, as getting around is very easy.
When we saw the traffic in Paris, and watched it whizzing around the Arc De Triomphe arch which is in the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle, a large circular square from which no less than 12 streets come together, one of them the famous Champs-Elysees, it looked like "Rafferty's rules" and best left to the French!
No lanes, and no laws like we have at home, and driving on the opposite side of the road, not for us!
Elsewhere in France, it was quite easy going.
It is always interesting in our travels to see some of the signs in parks, on billboards, in buildings etc. that we would not normally see at home. Even though our foreign language skills are very rudimentary you can usually get a sense of what something says by a few words or by the pictograms that are with it.
An example of one of the park signs is the subject of this tip. On our first full day in Paris in April, 2012 we were going to have lunch with some VTers in a restaurant nearby. We were early so walked a little bit around the Jardin du Ranelagh parc. A sticker had once covered part of the sign and blocked out one of the pictograms, but the other 3 are very visable. Here is out interpretation of the signage.
#1 - It's either ok for you to lead the dog or for the dog to walk you. You don't have to hold the leash when picking up after the dog.
#2 - Can't make this one out
#3 - No football playing - Oh No!!
#4 - Don't pick the flowers. But that is one strange looking 90 degree angle at the root of the flower don't you think?
Now this is something you will not see on the streets in the U.S.A. Free standing petrol pumps positioned at the edge of the sidewalks for patrons either to fill up on the street or on the sidewalk. Not that you are going to see motor bikes zooming down the sidewalk you are walking on, but they just might start up briefly, give you a bit of a scare and then pull over to top off their tanks and then be on their way.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, the catchy title of the 1992 bestseller by John Gray, succinctly expresses an ancient dilemma. What--if anything--do men's and women's brains do differently?
The general statement that men and women respond and behave differently under the same circumstances is true; For example, from the crib, male babies tend to be more aggressive and females more passive. As adults, in spatial operations, men have the edge in such skills as negotiating a maze, reading a map, and quickly discriminating between right and left. Men also perform better than women when asked to visualize an object and imagine rotating it. On the other hand, women tend to perform better than men when asked to look at objects of different shapes, sizes, and colors, and then to group them in some order.
This still doesn't explian why a woman turns the map all around when a man is asking for the road to travel, while I like the map at one point so I can better visualize our position. Help!
Drivers Do Not Always Observe the Lights
Be aware that drivers in Paris are paying less and less attention to stop lights. Recently, just as I was about to cross the street, 4 cars ran the red light. When I pointed to one of them, a taxi driver, he actually got mad and made a gesture.
In the Champ de Mars neighbourhood, the Segways (those strange looking electric push bike type thingies) have become a locals' nightmare.
Since a couple of years - an american based - company proposes guided tours (in english only) by Segways (for those unable to walk more than 500 meters ?)
Good intention, sure !
Those tours are organized ON THE SIDEWALKS : just imagine rather large groups (20-25 units) of electric -motorized push bikes, handled by unexperimented - wearing audio guide on their ears - wanabee pilots on the loose.
While the proposed itineraries are limited to loops around the Champ de Mars (relatively flat and broad), the company operating them claims to have not more than 3 accidents a week - this may sound few to visitors, but for those living in the area that's 3 accidents a week (generally involving old people, small kids or dogs).
Petitions have been sent to the townhouse to have those tours forbidden (in Nice the locals have succeded in it) but - in Paris - the Segways have been declared disabled peoples' vehicles and thus are nearly impossible to eliminate (and with 70 Euros/person minimum for a 2 hours tour, the operator choses to pay the fines).
The fact that the company (formerly known as Fat Tire Bike Tours - they had to close once but reappeared under an other name) doesn't offer tours in French (English only) and doesn't rent locally doesn't make for a better ambiance.
So, if you intend to have one of those tours (i have nothing against their bike - on the streets- or walking tours) PLEASE ,think about us, the locals, and take care (and wear your helmet, it may look dumb on the photos, but please - again - we are fed up with callling the 112).
Paris Segway Tours
24, rue Edgar Faure
parking your car in paris is a mess. i don't know where and how the people park there cars on the street without getting a ticket. there are some public car-parks available
i recommend not to use your car to get around. use the excellent public transport.
see link below
Traffic within Paris at all times is especially bad and extremely challenging.
Even DHL prefer to use cycle!
It's also a puzzle how are they parking (see pic#2)!
No wonder small cars are so popular there.
Driving around Paris requiring some time and serious patience.
There is a face of Velib which is rather sad. Since July 2007 there have been
18.000 degradations, 8.000 thefts, 3.500 complaints at the police, according to the French press.
It goes from warped frameworks, twisted handlebars, punctured tires, broken baskets, etc. even bicycles thrown in the Seine.
J.C. Decaux owner of some 20.000 bicycles put into circulation has a subsidiary company Cyclocity with 500 workers for the maintenance. There are 1.500 repairs per day in 10 workshops. They even have a barge for repairs circulating on the Seine.
As a consequence of the increasing degradations, only 46% of the “Vélibistes” declare to be satisfied with the state of the bicycles, against 55% in 2008.
Part of being on vacation in Europe for almost 2 weeks was the joy at not having to drive a car anywhere. I have a 56 mile round trip commute every work day in the Chicago area, so I didn't even think about having a car on our trip.
I thought this photograph that Sue took on our Bike Tour around Paris the first day a study in contrast. Taken around 5:00 p.m. on a Thursday during peak drive time it shows the cluster of traffic in the Paris Metro area, the serrenity and lack of boats on the Seine River (which isn't always the case) along with the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the background.
The French TV announced the sixth fatal accident in Paris of a user of Velib bicycle self-service since its launching on July 15th, 2007.
They did not mention the number of deadly accidents implying cyclists using their own bicycle.
Any person having visited Paris will have noted that the traffic is particularly dense and often risky. Cohabitation between cyclists, busses, taxis, heavy trucks and vehicles of delivery is particularly dangerous because these vehicles are generally authorized to drive on the same lanes as the bicycles!
These accidents with Velib users were almost all due to a truck or bus turning right without having seen the cyclist on their side; the traditional problem of “the dead angle”.
If you are a tourist in Paris and want to drive a bicycle be particularly careful. This city does not have the infrastructures reserved exclusively to the cyclists such as in Amsterdam for example.
Best is to choose for your cycling days of less traffic like Sundays or the periods of holidays like August.
1ST off, im English and therefore drive on the left most of the time. However Paris is my favourite city and we try to get over there as much as possible, and we always take the car, afterall its only 380 miles from Birmingham England! Driving in Paris is no worse than any other city, and in fact in many respects better than most. For example London, with its congestion zones, huge amounts of buses and the sheer volume of traffic makes it much more stressful. The standard of driving is in my opinion higher in Paris, with great car control in narrow spaces being a necessity and therefore other drivers will generally be able to avoid you most of the time! There are a great many one way streets so the traffic actually flows very well, and armed with either a sat-nav or a good map, finding your way around is pretty easy, although Americans may struggle as the roads are never straight and easy to follow. As regards traffic lights, you must stop on red of course and at that point pedestrians can cross, and obviously if they are still in the road you must wait for them to move, however stopping at crossings with no lights basically never happens unless they just step out. Which is something one learns to do while walking the streets! I recommend parking in station carparks, my personal favourite is the Gare de Lyon station one, 24 euros for 24 hours, and its safe, secure and you wont be clamped or towed. Lastly, when driving in Paris, be a bit aggressive, go for gaps, push in, everyone does it and its fun!! Keeps you awake, and there is no sense of genuine road rage, you may get beeped at or something but not like in England where there is a very real risk of a hoody wearing chav getting out and stabbing you if you cut him up!! Go for it I say.
For a foreigner, especially one who's never been to France, driving is a hazardous, nerve-wracking experience. Moreover, France has such excellent train and bus service that the only places you might need a car are really out there in the hinterlands. And there are guided coach tours to most of the rural places (like the chateaux), which are worth seeing. Paris has plenty of taxicabs, and the drivers are usually fairly honest. So your best bet is to use public transit, hire a cab, or just walk. The city is very walkable, and you can use the exercise anyway. Don't drive unless it's absolutely necessary.
Driving in the center of a big busy city as Paris can be really an adventure, people crossing the roads, bikes, motorbikes speeding at your right and left side, cars cutting the line...
This all happens when you drive in Paris, for this reason you need to have 1000 eyes to watch right, left up and down.
Before making a turn, make sure twice that nobody is coming, and always take care of people, other cars, etc...