As the epicenter of all things chic, I couldn't have been more thrilled to return to Paris last summer. Like Bordeaux, Paris has masterfully retrofit its streets and roadways to accommodate bicycles and buses without disrupting the city's beauty and charm. Listen up Miami. If Paris can retrofit their streets for bikes and buses, so can we! Here's how.
Bikeshare, Parisian Style
Paris takes bikeshare to a whole new level. The bicycles are not a commercial advertisement for the vendor's sponsor (so American). Paris' bikes are quintessentially Parisian from the subdued neutral gray color to the European style bicycle frame. Select bikeshare bicycles that reflect the city's style.
Divide and Conquer, A Sidewalk with Space for Everyone
Wide sidewalks are all the rage in Paris. What makes this sidewalk so great are the different zones which tell people how to use it. Bicycle and motorcycle parking along the edge, walking in the middle and a protected zone along the storefronts. Pavement markings, paving patterns and bollards help to delineate these areas.
How to Share the Road, Bike Lanes
For cyclists, painted bike lanes don't offer much protection from cars especially at intersections. Here's a clever way to keep cars from swerving into cyclists when making right turns. An oversized bollard routes cars away from the bike lane. Brick paving and pavement markings alerts cyclists and drivers that the intersection is approaching.
How to Share the Road, Multi-use Lanes
When space is limited, bicycles and buses share the same lane so that more space can be created for a center sidewalk and cozy bus shelters. Look at the cool yellow pavement markings that indicate the lane is shared and the white directional markings for bicycles crossing the shared lane.
Streets for Everyone, Parking Lanes
Here is a cacophony of pavement markings. You may have to be a native to know exactly what they all mean, but there's room for bicycle parking, delivery vehicles, bicycle traffic, car traffic and pedestrian crossings. Phew!
More Shared Space, Multi-use Lanes
Are you starting to notice a theme? Parisians like to share lanes with bicycles and buses. Makes sense. The bus is more efficient when it doesn't have to drive with traffic and bicycles can take advantage of these wide open lanes for an easy and relatively stress free cycling experience.
Another nice feature is the ornate metal fence which separates the sidewalk from the bus/bike lane. Creates a comfy sidewalk to accommodate cafe seating.
Slowing Down Traffic
This is a typical Parisian side street. It's narrow, so there's not much opportunity to speed down the road. But just in case that's not a sufficient deterrent, this street has a kind of rumble strip made of cobblestones to slow traffic and the speed limit painted in large white numbers at the top of the intersection. Pretty simple. How easy would it be to paint the speed limit on some of the more dangerous streets in Miami? Bollards and metal fencing provides another layer of protection for the strolling Parisian. Tres chic.
A Place for Pedestrians, Car Free Streets
We have a pretty great example of this in Miami Beach. Lincoln Road is kind of our poster child for pedestrian exclusive streets. It's so successful that retailers pay outrageous rents just to have a presence on the street. These streets are more common in Paris and they exist for the sheer pleasure of strolling between neighborhoods without having to maneuver around cars. There are place for sitting, walking and space for planters and street trees. The street is calm and pleasant.
A love that this crosswalk is placed in the middle of the block and perfectly aligned with the Pantheon monument. Getting to the building is not just about crossing the street, but crossing the street at a precise location in order to get the perfect view of this monument. Parisians think of everything!
Getting Around Town
And for the cyclist that has to tote around multiple children without losing style points. Here's a weather proof bike caddy to protect your little ones from the rain. This could work in Miami!
Parks in Unexpected Places
I used this photo already in a previous blog, but it was worth a second look. When streets are wide enough, rather than adding another lane for car traffic, Parisians build parks. Yes, right in the middle of the street. A nice little respite for residents looking for some greenery or a business person on their lunch hour. It's a civilized way to create comfortable spaces for everyone.
The lesson--streets can be a wonderful extension of a place's personality while providing a vital function to move all kinds of traffic. We don't need to build banal, utilitarian streets in Miami that serve nothing more than cars. Here are examples of how one retrofit its streets by sharing spaces and using mostly paint and some embellishments.