After living through this week’s strikes in Paris, I thought I’d share a few observations for those of you who haven’t the pleasure of experiencing it in direct.
1/ Mayor Delanoë’s Velib program is going to benefit massively from the strike. You would have thought that the Velib (public bicycle service if you have not heard of it) was designed as a counter measure for public transportation strikes (accompanying the personnel-less #14 metro line). His appeal for people to stop driving into Paris (car pool or other alternative) to limit the surge in pollution (and promote Velib?) was an interesting twist — a tacit way to support the strike?
2/ Special taxi lanes are good, but not enough. There are still a majority of streets that don’t have special taxi/bus lanes which means that most taxis still get stuck up in the traffic, bringing the supply of taxis to a wicked halt. There were stories of hour(s) long waits at the main train stations. I haven’t heard of any specifics, but I can imagine that the usually horrendously long wait for taxi drivers at the Roissy (and Orly) airport was brought down to near zero (a rarity — one usually sees upwards of 2.5 hours of queuing for the taxi drivers). Don’t expect me to lay out any sympathy for the taxi drivers though.
3/ For friends visiting Paris this week (one for the very first time), they were fortunate it wasn’t rainy (as were those of living here, of course). For some, it was the first time they got to see red flags flying. A friend visiting from the UK missed his Eurostar train back because it took more than 1 3/4 hours to go from the 17th arrondissement to Gare du Nord (no more than 5.5 kms). But as Bill writes, the Velib is not the answer to it all (the rigidity of the park system remains a problem):
“I should have rented the bike as soon as I left you. Would have made it with time to spare. The bikes are terrific as are the bike lanes. As it was I almost made it, but couldn’t find the bike rack for returns!”
4/ The anti-strike manifestation is due to begin this afternoon (3pm) at the République, the symbolic site that is more-or-less associated with the Left (politically speaking), but was also one of the principal sites of the 1944 Résistance uprising. Rather than brave the cold and traffic to get there (still don’t have fully operational public transportation), I’d rather observe the manifestation from the pleasures of our living room.
5/ If the strikes don’t end soon, I may yet consider getting my own bicycle! And I certainly understand how, over the years, people have been ‘driven’ to using a motorcycle or scooter… When you combine the construction-related traffic on the southern side of the périphérique (circular road around Paris) along with the effects of the strike, the 1-hour delay announced just to drive the bottom arc of the periph is quite disconcerting. In any event, I would be a buyer of motorcycle stocks these days, in Paris (if the capital markets had such an offering!).