Paris Buses Get Own Way

photo: bistro chez lucette, jonquiere

Away from the main roads, fast food hasn't found Chez Lucette in the Rue de La Jonquière.

Paris Drivers Get Less

Paris:- Monday, 3. September 2001:- Once promised, now done - the city's initial new exclusive lanes for buses went into operation two weeks ago and produced some lovely traffic jams for summertime motorists, who barely had time to get over being happy with the Seine's expressway being re-opened.

The new bus corridors have been widened to allow room for both city buses and bicyclists to co-exist, and basically enjoy an obstacle-free right-of-way.

This has been achieved by the installation of serious but low barriers, which make it impossible for cars and trucks to stray into the new lanes.

As an aid to delivery trucks, they may park to load or unload in the middle of the street next to the barriers as well as next to the curbs on the opposite sides.

While the drastically reduced roadways create nightmare situations for ordinary drivers, the buses skim along. So far, only seven kilometres of Paris' streets has been rearranged, but another 34 kilometres are scheduled for the same treatment by the end of the year.

Nobody knows if Paris drivers will switch to public transport, but the RATP plans to increase its fleet of buses in service by ten percent.

It seems as the most unhappy drivers are mainly from the suburbs. Many of these drive intophoto: new bus lane, rue rivoli Paris every day because they consider public transport to be inadequate or they plain don't like it.

The bus lane on the Rue de Rivoli. Notice cars squished into remainder of street on the right - and snazzy cross-hatching like other big cities.

It is true that during Paris' relatively rare periods of light traffic a car can be a lot faster than a RER train. These light-traffic periods are rare in weekday daylight hours, and non-existent during rush-hours.

The major reason for all this is explained in a quote by Paris' mayor Bertrand Delanoë in an interview with Le Parisien, "I am not obsessed with cars, but by the health of the Parisians."

Rome went a lot further with the reduction of central-city traffic some years ago and has seen a real drop in pollution levels. Besides being Paris' 'sister city,' the two mayors are pals and they are watching each other's experiments.

Université d'Eté

At the end of each summer, while common folks are facing the stark realities of going back to work and the hurdles of getting their kids into schools, most political parties hold conventions in still-warm holiday spots that are generally called, 'Université d'Eté.'

I guess it doesn't matter what these gatherings are called so long as it isn't 'Banana Harvest Time.' This year's editions of these meetings are more important than usual, because all of the parties are getting ready for the eight-month 'Battle for the Presidency.'

Mind you, there are no official candidates yet. The current Président of the République, Jacques Chirac, is expected to run for re-election - but he hasn't formally announced his intentions - and won't, until the politically-correct time.

The part of the RPR party loyal to him, held their 'Université d'Eté' to tell each other and show the media that they are 101 percent for the Président's re-election. This was not exactly news.

What was news was Philippe Seguin's new beard. How much good it will do for Mr. Chirac is unknown, but it has certainlyphoto: tabac rue levis let the world know that the RPR is not to be trifled with, now that one of its heavier hitters has a very attractive full beard and looks a bit like a famous movie star.

On an otherwise dull Friday, sun washed this café terrace in the Rue de Lévis.

The Socialists, who run the government majority in the Assembly National, tried to look like plain folks by taking off their habitual ties, and some even wore colored shirts.

Education minister Jack Lang doesn't count here because he always wears colored shirts, but I think I saw him with one that hadn't sported a tie two minutes before TV's cameras caught him.

Like the president, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin is not a candidate for the office of Président of the République. He too is waiting until the politically-correct time - tieless.

The so-called liberal wing of the right wing has UDF for a party name, and its leader François Bayrou also did not announce his candidacy. He merely said he was the 'third man' and poked three fingers at the sky. His supporters cheered this political move.

The Greens - 'Les Verts' - seldom wear ties. But instead of being united behind their already announced candidate, Alain Lipietz, they have decided to feud about Corsican matters.

This is not good news because Corsica is sort of the 'Deep Black Hole' of French politics. It is so incomprehensible, so long-standing, so bizarre - that the 'man on the street' would vote to sell it back to the Italians, even if they could be persuaded to take it back for nothing.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is a European deputy for Les Verts, is not a candidate for president. He could have, but didn't actually say that the Greens' position on the unsolvable problems of Corsica, has no place in the matter at hand - which is a reasonable amount of party unity.

Even the far left Communist Revolutionary League held an 'Université d'Eté' - which actually wasn't one, because it took place at a 'socialist' ski resort instead of a 'capitalist' seaside resort.

Olivier Besancenot became their chosen candidate for the office of Président of the République - or will be if they can gather the necessary 500 signatures for the application form.

Just so you won't be able to jump to any conclusions, there are several other potential candidates. One of these is Jean-Pierre Chevènement, the Jospin government's ex-Minister of the Interior who resigned over the Corsican question.

Another is the eternal far-right leader of one wing of the Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who thinks Jacques Chirac is the culpritphoto: placemat fiat 500 responsible for permitting the 'Marxist' Lionel Jospin to become Prime Minister.

As usual the troublemaker, he hasn't done Valéry Giscard d'Estaing any favors by suggesting him as an ideal candidate.

Yes, it is the 'Fiat 500 of the Week' even if it is on a placemat in the club's café.

As far as I know, former Président Valéry Giscard d'Estaing is nearly the only politician in France who is not even pretending to be a candidate. Instead, he pops up, wearing a tie, with sensible ideas for improvements to the constitution - which seem to get discussed, voted on and passed into law.

Only one thing is certain, there is going to be a lot of politicking between now and next spring. Maybe even Corsica will get sidelined for a while.

The Euro Is On the Move

A couple of weeks ago the new euro coins were moved out of the mints, on heavily guarded trains, to several very heavily guarded distribution points around France.

This weekend the coins were reduced to smaller amounts, and armored car companies began their distribution to banks, post offices and other places such as the Banque de France.

This will take 13 weeks of very heavy work by the armored car crews, and a considerable amount of overtime will be put in by security forces guarding the transfers.

The new paper currency, which was first shown in public on Thursday in Frankfurt at its opera, will not be distributed before December - and will not be available for public use before 1. January 2002.

One advertising agency has been charged with its promotion throughout the euro-zone, and the cost of the campaign will be 80 million euros.

The public is faced with becoming familiar with seven new bank notes and eight coins. The notes will range from five euros to 500 and the coins will start with one cent and go up to two euros.

Both sides of the euro notes will be identical throughout the European Union, while the coins will have one common face and one national face.

Whichever face a coin has, you can count on a thimble of café costing one euro by the time the coins arrive in circulation in France.

Internet Life

'Café de la Soul'

This is described in an email newsletter from Robin Bates as Paris' first Black portal. This may be a new version of an older Web site, but it is welcome on the Paris scene in any case.

It has features such as a portrait of Julia Browne, who created 'Walking the Spirit Tours,' a walkingphoto: resto la terrace tour of historical Black Paris. There is also a review of the 'Etoile' Noir' of Paris Soul food - 'Chez Bojangles' - and a gallery section with photos by Paris-based David Henry.

The bistro La Terrace is right across from the Square des Batignolles.

The Web site also has a message board for posting wishes and dreams, as well as a current series of reports titled, 'Adventures of a Single Sister in Paris' by Christiann Anderson.

In these days of Internet doom and gloom it is refreshing to see that there is still some optimism around, and in this case it should be rewarded by giving Café de la Soul a solid hit. In clear, here is the URL:- http://www.cafedelasoul.com/cafehome.htm

Your Paris Web URLs

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. If they haven't been featured before and they don't crash my browser, you'll get a modest 'thankYou' here.

I have not overlooked the URLs I've received as recently as several weeks ago, and I have even checked some of them out. The 'thankYous' are being readied.

The Season That Wasn't

As mentioned elsewhere in the issue, the weather has turned out some surprisingly hot days in spite of optimistic forecasts. For the summer as a whole, three fairly good periods were broken up by two really rotten ones, not counting a usual sort of September beginning - 'average' for early November.

If you are curious or need to know more, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts.

Météo-France has also begun its 'Vigilance-Météo' service. This consists of putting out special warning about coming hurricane-speed winds, torrential downpours, heavy storms, tornados, blizzards and/or avalanches within the next few hours - especially in the grape growing regions.

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