Conditional Summer Traffic

photo: cafe au moka, closed for holidays

You can expect some cafés to be closed, like this
one, in August.

Roller 'Rando' Resumes

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 31. July 2000:- The weather in Paris and in the northern half of France has been unspeakable for the entire month, so I won't write about it here. I'll try to find the official France-Météo propaganda and put it on the 'Au Bistro' page - as so-called 'news.'

In keeping with the weather, I am slightly under it. I should say I am slightly under some blankets because this is almost the case with my air-conditioned apartment, which maintains a steady temperature a few degrees below the outside's somewhat 'below normal' temperatures.

Thus, if I go outside, it seems like a stunning heat-wave, and I have been tending to forget what I'm supposed to be doing outside, while I wallow in the glory of being almost warm.

Visitors, of course, have no choice. They have to go out in all weathers, like mailmen, but I understand they have also noticed that Paris' skies are not exactly golden. So much for the promises of 2000!

A Paris Traffic Lesson

The new-looking, small, white SEAT was parked in the crosswalk at the end of my street, with its emergency lights flashing. It was not only Friday rush-hour time, it was also the beginning of the August exodus from Paris.

A couple of days before, I had noticed a car from the Prefecture patrolling the southbound bus lane on the Avenue Leclerc. Besides the driver, it carried a crew of two parkingphoto: tow away, 1st car ticket agents; and they were looking for illegal parkers.

The Avenue du Général Leclerc, to give it its full name, runs down to the Porte d'Orléans - which is the beginning of the holiday route to the Côte d'Azur - and was expected to be busy.

Stage one of a local parking drama last Friday afternoon.

The illegally-parked SEAT was not blocking the way of traffic on the avenue, but it was an annoyance to pedestrians - who were having to nearly go out on the busy avenue to get past it.

Just as I came level with it, the Prefecture's car arrived, with a tow-away truck right behind it. To hook up to the SEAT the tow-truck had to reverse up to it, leaving its nose poking into the avenue's traffic.

After a short discussion with the ticket agents, the burley tow-truck operator lifted up the back end of the SEAT. Meanwhile, the Prefecture car had backed into my one-way street and was sitting in a loading zone, facing the wrong way.

At this point two young fellows, one with a small boutique shopping bag, rushed up. The taller one approached the tow-truck operator, to try and 'talk' his ready-to-be-towed-away car free.

Instead of simply stiffing the errant parker, the discussion continued. The driver of the Prefecture's car was consulted and so were the ticket agents. The driver put his bag in the car and took something out. He pointed out invisible damage to the SEAT's front bumper, caused by a tow-hook of the car in front of it - parked in the loading zone opposite the Prefecture's car, but not blocking pedestrians.

Ten minutes passed. A lady in a wheelchair arrived. At corners, some Paris sidewalks dip to road level, to allow easier wheel-chair - and roller-skater! - passage. This was blocked by the tow-truck and the hooked-up car. She shouted at the tow-truck driver, but he didn't hear her.

The wheel-chair lady waited about four minutes in front of this impasse, then she reversed - which is when I saw she used only her toes for locomotion, not her hands. She kicked her way out into the bus lane, crossed in front of the tow-truck and got to the other side.

The conference continued. The driver of the Prefecture car spoke on his mobile phone to someone. The illegal parker kept talking to the tow-truck driver.

Meanwhile, some of the cars coming down the avenue were trying to turn into my street and were only doing it with some difficulty. Scooters from the messenger service were coming out of the street - the wrong way - to get to the avenue, without bothering to go around the block.

One motorcyclist even came towards the corner on the avenue's sidewalk, to catch the traffic lights in a way to cut over to the northbound side of the Avenue Leclerc.

A larger police van, with all of its colorful lights twirling, came along the bus lane, to menace some other illegal parkers - some of whom were running across the street to the post office. The police van swept nearly all of them away.

After about another 20 minutes of discussions, the tow-truck operator let the SEAT back down and unhooked it. The SEAT's driver and passenger got into it.

Then the tow-truck pulled forward into the avenue's bus lane. At the same time the Prefecture car moved away from where itphoto: tow away, 2nd car was parked, facing the wrong way - letting the tow-truck back up again to hook up a Mini that had been behind the Prefecture's car, in the long loading zone.

The near-final act, of the same local parking drama.

The two guys with the white SEAT backed out of the street, into the avenue's bus lane, and then headed off south down the avenue. I don't know if they got a parking ticket or not.

The tow-truck pulled the Mini out of my street and stopped with it in the bus lane for some reason. City buses, tour buses, cars and trucks - all had to swing left to get past it - yet there was no beeping or honking.

Another guy ran up to the tow-truck. This time the conversation was short; possibly about the location of the car-pound.

The car from the Prefecture returned to the bus lane to look for more offenders as the tow-truck finally trundled off with its 'catch.'

The Paris traffic lesson here is, it is not okay to park for five to 10 minutes in a pedestrian crosswalk, while doing a little last-minute summer sale shopping. It is okay to block a pedestrian crosswalk for 30 minutes while talking your way out of the situation.

I lost count of all the other rolling traffic offenses that were committed while this 'lesson' was being demonstrated. Many of these were quite ingenious, well worth hard-time in jail in any place other than Paris.

Legal Parking In Paris?

Since phase one of the summer holiday exodus from Paris on the Bastille Day weekend, there have been many more legal street parking places available in the city than there are in normal times - when there are none, in principle.

This is not guaranteed to repeat, but in past years the city has shut down its parking metres for all of August on many minor streets - meaning that there are not only places to park, they are free too.

None of these steets are major arteries. Most of the streets affected are outside the city centre's core arrondissements, so do not expect to park your wheels with impunity on the Champs-Elysées.

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