Theo Zweers just sent me a link to this remarkably well made video about cycling in Paris. While the video is in French, the use of graphics makes it extremely easy to understand the majority of it for speakers of any language.
The title is "Angles Morts" which means "dead corners". i.e. "blind spots" in English or the "dode hoek" in Dutch. I assume this is a play on words in French as well, it indicating that cyclists are being ignored even by those who should be upholding the law.
The statistics at the beginning show that like in many other places with car dominance, 47% of car journeys are under 3 km, 22% are under 1 km and 12% are under 500 metres. If conditions for cycling are nearly as frightening as they appear in this video, it's hardly surprising that this is the case.
For me, viewing the video was a good reminder of how things are in the UK. The roads are full of cars, there is a need to be constantly alert for what drivers might do next and cycle facilities frequently result in inconvenience. There is no sign in the video of any regard for the subjective safety needed to make cycling a pleasant experience that everyone wants to take part in.
I expect that some people reading this will be thinking along the lines of "what about the velib system?". I've written previously about the wishful thinking involved in these schemes, which actually have scope only to be used for a tiny percentage of total journeys. Let's hope that French cyclists start to see real infrastructure improvements, making journeys convenient and pleasant.
It may seem to many that the incidents shown in the video are simply normal life for any cyclist anywhere. However, it would be impossible to make a video like this where we live in Assen. Such incidents as are shown simply don't occur. Seeing this video made me think about this and I've been unable to recall a single time that anything unpleasant of note has happened in the two years that we've lived here. Such pleasant conditions are, of course, what makes all cycling pleasant, and mass cycling possible.
Zero deaths in Paris ?
There's a very popular idea going around that somehow Paris is incredibly safe and has zero deaths of cyclists. You may have wondered whether this is true or merely a myth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given what Paris looks like in the video above, the real figures show Paris to be about as safe or unsafe as London.
To make real progress in cycling safety and convenience, you need to copy the best examples. This means copying the best that the Netherlands has to offer. Dutch cities are not only far more convenient for cycling but also far safer than Paris, London or indeed anywhere else outside the Netherlands.
For reasons that have always been a mystery to me, many British cyclists would seem to think France is a particularly good place to cycle. In France, just 3% of journeys are by bike. It may be three times the cycling rate of the UK, but it's still barely more than a tenth of the cycling rate of the Netherlands. There is a reason why the French don't cycle more, and you see it in this video.