Sunday Strolling in Paris

photo: cafe la corona

If not before, then after a Sunday stroll, tank up here.

Biking, Rollering, Jogging and Plain Walking

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Sunday, 25. April 1999:- For the first time in more than a week, surprise sunshine is pouring in my kitchen window this morning. There have been fifteen minute periods of good weather during my week-long 'holiday,' but none of them were when I was outside.

I quit watching the TV-weather news, so I don't know if what I first see today will last a half-hour, or more, or less. When I next look, it is still there. So maybe I've got a Sunday to do what other people do.

For a while two or three years ago, I used to end the 'Au Bistro' column with the announced weekend demonstrations in Paris. Gradually, this list came to include a regular item, called something like "Pedestrians, Bicycles, Relax."

This initially involved the closing of the right bank Georges Pompidou expressway along the edge of the Seine in the centre of Paris, as well as part of the quaiside roads on thephoto: seine quai du louvre left bank; for a period of hours on Sundays. This gradually extended to other areas - up on the Canal Saint-Martin, Mouffetard - and from the beginning, bikes were in the act too.

The quai at first seems nearly deserted, but this turned out not to be so.

With the passing of time, 'bike lanes' of all sorts have been extended to 108.3 kilometres and I think another 22-odd are planned to be added this year. A few years from now, the bike lanes will cross Paris on both sides of the Seine, plus will loop entirely around the city, just inside the Perifreak.

While many 'bike lanes' are no more than a dotted white line with a silhouette of a bicycle stenciled in them, another good number have a protective curb as well. At many intersections, the 'stop'-line for cars is well behind the pedestrian crosswalk, and the space made available is to allow cyclists to move to the left, to turn. Some bike lanes are completely divided from other traffic, and some of these are two-way.

The Friday night roller derby that starts at the Place d'Italie has more participants than ever. It goes west through Montparnasse and over to Trocadéro, up and across the Champs-Elysées and east through the right bank before looping back to the 13th and the Place d'Italie.

The police have a rolling road-block set up for this - as in, 'Get back everybody - here comes the cattle stampede!' Because Paris is a bit more complex than Dodge City, this is quite an affair.

Today then, outside I am looking at the sky and trying to judge the chances of it being more, but not a lot less, clear by the time I can get to the city - to see this great, free, walkabout in the fresh air. I almost turn back because it looks chancy.

A hour later, coming out of the métro Louvre-Rivoli, it looks like luck is with me. I do not see hordes of bicyclists heading west on Rivoli, but there are a lot of people heading into the east end of the Louvre complex.

At the Quai du Louvre, most bouquinistes open and there are a lot of people going pastphoto: voie georges pompidou them. The street traffic is normal though; I had kind of thought it would be shut down. And when I look down on the riverside quai, there are not too many people.

These two refreshment vendors are just setting up, after letting three-hours' worth of rollers glide by.

Ah, it is the expressway that is closed. Walkers, hardly any joggers - going the way of the dinosaur? - bicyclists and roller people - some pushing baby strollers - are on the speedway. In one of the tunnels, it stinks - old stone, or concrete, oozing pollution?

Still it is not so many as I thought. But this might be a misperception as I am foot-slogging, as usual. The cyclists are not racing; many of the roller-derby people are going faster. There are not many in one spot, and they do not come by like an endless stream of tin cars - so there is room between all types.

Being on the expressway, on foot, is something new. Normally in a car here, it can be white-knuckle time. There certainly is no time for any sightseeing.

On foot, there is nothing but time for looking around. It is close to the river's water, which is brown and moving fast. Under bridge arches, it makes noise - almost lke a waterfall in places.

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