How a Bicycle Revolution is Transforming Paris

New survey shows cyclists have overtaken motorists in Paris.

Man cycling near the Paris landmark Arc de Triomphe.

(Ondrej Bucek /

In France’s capital city, a “pedal-fuelled revolution” is taking place. Cyclists now outnumber motorists. 11.2 percent of trips in Paris are made on two wheels, compared to 4.3 percent in four-wheel vehicles. This is echoed in data on trips between the suburbs and the city center revealing that 14 percent of trips are made by bicycle compared to 11.8 percent by car. 

These exciting findings are the fruit of a new GPS Mobility Survey published in a report  from the Urban Planning & Transport department of the Paris Region Institute, a public agency and the largest urban planning and environmental agency in Europe, according to Forbes. This survey of how people move within Paris and its environs was conducted with GPS trackers.

Significantly, these cyclists now on the streets and roads of Paris are not Spandex-clad pros such as those seen on races like the Tour de France but everyday cyclists, typically commuting to work.

A paradigm shift in urban mobility preferences
Companies working in sustainability, such as the PTV Group, are quick to point out that while for decades, urban planning revolved around accommodating cars, the years of congestion, pollution and noise in cities have seen cities like Paris increasingly welcoming initiatives pushing towards car-free environments. 

Forbes, in its article calling this change a “French Revolution”, gives the example of Paris’s iconic Rue de Rivoli, one of the main arteries of the French capital. Some five years back, it was cars that monopolized this almost two-mile  (three-kilometer) axis that runs in front of Paris City Hall and the Louvre Museum, but not any more. Today, it has two-way cycle lanes, and a dedicated lane for buses and taxis.

This isn’t the only Paris landmark that has witnessed a sea change, however.  The perpendicular Boulevard de Sébastopol has become the route most used by cyclists, with figures that usually exceed 10,000 daily trips, according to the Paris en Selle (Paris in the Saddle) association. This association promotes the use of bicycles for multiple reasons, its website explains, from environmental considerations, to the wish for transport to be more inclusive, and the quest for calm for residents of Paris and its suburbs.

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In other words, such initiatives, kickstarted by local authorities,  emphasize the quality of life improvements this this shift offers embracing everything from a lower demand for environmentally-harmful fossil fuels,  more green space and an alternative to sedentary lifestyles, to enhanced access to accessible modes of transport for all incomes, tourist appeal  and retail activity.

The administration of trailblazing Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is credited with encouraging this transformation through her vision to reclaim the city for Parisians. Measures implemented by her administration of a car-free cityscape take in the pedestrianization of extensive sections of the Seine’s riverbanks, and a significantly expanded network of bicycle lanes for eco-friendly commuting options. 

Other notable sustainability innovations include car-free Sundays in ten busy city areas, and speed limits in most of the centre of Paris in 2021. 

Parisians are on board. In 2024, they voted to triple parking charges for large SUVs. Reporting on the institute’s survey, French TV channel 20 Minutes told viewers that the “capital’s cycle paths are always full.”

During the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics in the city, which Forbes regards as the accelerator of this new “bike plan,” automobile traffic will be heavily restricted on 115 miles (185 kilometres) of roads  in the greater Île-de-France region which includes Paris.

Still a way to go despite the survey findings
As Adelphi Education explains, Paris, a city with 2.2 million inhabitants at the end of 2011, is at the heart of the Ile de France region made up of 12 million people. But most stakeholders admit that there is still some way to go before the vision of an entire city suitable for two-wheel transportation becomes reality.

The Paris en Selle association warns that only 27 percent of the “bike plan” has been carried out, despite the fact that Hidalgo’s second term in office has already elapsed by 62 percent, while at times, reports Forbes, the density of bike lanes causes friction between cyclists, through City officials have tried to improve this situation by building other bike lanes on parallel streets. The Deputy Mayor of Paris for Transportation, David Belliard, acknowledges that there are delays, but remains optimistic that the positive changes seen to date will continue.

Still, the experience of cycling in Paris is receiving accolades. For instance, an article from the Komoot adventure app, presents the 20 most beautiful road biking routes around Paris. The Paris Je T'aime tourism website, meanwhile, celebrates the growth of city cycle routes, and enthuses that major roads are now safely accessible to cyclists, with many reserved for pedestrians and non-motorized means of transport.

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