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 streets 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.

The actual availability of parking slots is therefore an invitation to rent a car if you are a visitor. This will let you return home and be able to announce that you successfully drove around the Etoile and survived.

However, keep in mind that the nature of Paris traffic changes in August. Because there is less of it, it can be faster. There are also other confused visitors driving around too. Finally, a lot of city roadworks are done in August - which can result in a number of surprise detours.

If you are still uncertain about trying to drive-it-yourself, sunrise in Paris is currently about 06:30. This is aphoto: electro pump for cars time when most of Paris is still asleep, including all the local drivers who haven't disappeared down the Autoroute du Soleil.

Fill Up With Juice

In case you take it into your head to rent an electric car - why the heck not? - you should know that there are several dispensers of electricity for cars around the city. These are located in some parking garages, but others are located on streets - with adjacent parking places. In these, you can park as long as it takes to juice up your car.

Put in your plastic, tap in your PIN code, lift the black cover, plug in and juice up.

Let the Good Times Roll

The previous two Friday night roller randos through the streets of Paris were canceled because of a dispute between the rando's organizers and the Prefecture of Police.

The Prefecture of Police had decreed in early July that the rando had to follow one of four pre-defined routes. In a face-saving measure, the decree was not withdrawn, but was amended to suit the demands of the roller folk and their spokesmen.

Once again, Pari-Roller and Sunday's Roller et Coquillages can propose their own itineraries to the police for authorization. Essentially, this compromise puts the situation back to were it was originally - but now there is also a 'decree' with an important amendment on the books.

To celebrate the resumption of the now-traditional Friday night roller rando, I went over to the Place Denfert-Rochereau at 22:15 to watch the horde arrive from the Boulevard Saint-Jacques and pass by, taking the tight corner into the Boulevard Arago.

If I had still been awake, I could have gone over to the Avenue du Maine later, to see the hard-core left-overs, returning from a wide-ranging Paris tour, on their way to the starting point at the Place d'Italie where they were expected to arrive at about 01:00.

There don't seem to have been any winners or losers in this affair. The police have a right to be concerned; and the randos' organizers called them off when there wouldn't be any police escort.

If you consider the illegal-parking anecdote above, then try to imagine between ten and 20,000 peoplephoto: friday night roller rando of all ages on rollerskates or in-line rollers, skating around together in the semi-darkness of a typical Friday night in Paris.

Some of the roller folks on Friday night - not stopping to pose.

If this were a crowd sitting down at an indoor concert, you would be inclined to say it is a lot of people. Now imagine Paris streets - some smooth, some cobbled; some uphill, some downhill and some flat; imagine Paris' orange-flavored night-time lighting.

Finally, imagine what Paris drivers may think of being held up on their urgent trips - while a crucial intersection is blocked for a half-hour by a goofball horde of roller crazies - some of whom do not even have driving licenses.

If I were the police, I'd say the whole thing is crazy and nuts and if I had the power of the Prefecture, I'd ban the thing on the grounds of public lunacy. In the area of public safety, it is somewhere around the level of jumping off high bridges with nothing but rubber-bands tied to your ankles.

In fact, I guess this is what the police may have thought too.

But given the threat of wildcat randos - plus the fact that the Paris police are now the most experienced in the world in the vital sub-specialty of escorting these roller randos - and add to it the fact that these randos are generating growing 'rando-tourism' - oh yes! - Paris has no choice but to remain the world's capital for the Friday night roller-rando.

Café Metropole Club's 42nd Session

Last Thursday's club meeting was attended by the club's secretary and one new member, Donna, who was not a visitor and who is not quite a resident. If you haven't already, read all about the meeting news. You can do so now unless you are busy doing something else, like reading the old stuff below instead.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.31 - 2. August 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'Dog Days To Come?' The 'Auphoto: no parking, tow away, juice up Bistro' column was titled 'France Is Nearly Full Up.' Not this year! This issue had three features, titled 'The 10 Closest Boulangeries,' 'La Villette - A Multi-Theme Park' and 'The Friday Night Roller 'Rando'' The 'Scene' column had 'I Thought Paris Was Closed In August.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Pass the Teeth.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.31 - 3. August 1998 - The Café Metropole column hinted at dirt in paradise with the title of: 'Don't Bring Your Laundry Here.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled, 'Siestas Are Good For You.' This issue had one feature, titled 'In the Jardin d'Acclimatation Wonderland.' There four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Siesta School,' which was about a course that I failed to pass.

Metropole Paris' Nearly Solo Countdown to 31. December 2000:

This countdown has dropped into the doldrums again in France as most officials are now on holidays. Still, the 'Third Millennium' will be on Monday, I. January 2001 with or without them - but I cannot add more at this time because France is closed for 'les vacances.' This means we are within the 30 days of mid-summer limbo - having left the 20th century last December but not yet arrived in the 21st. Fear not; something should turn up within a month. If this idea gathers momentum, start getting ready for a repeat of last year's New Year's Eve, with all the trimmings.

There are only about 153 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium. For really fussy readers, this figure is correct. On account of this section being revived due to a perk up of interest, 213 days have gone since New Year's 2000.
signature, regards, ric

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini