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france.gif (227 bytes) This page is a translation of a a document originally published on the Web site of the Mouvement de Défense de la Bicyclette (Paris); no longer available on that organization's site, but available in the original French at a Web archive site and also on this site. Translation by John S. Allen


"The scandal of Maréchaux, or when deeds take the place of high-flown words"


Contents page (on archive site, in French)

Opinion of bicyclists' organizations concerning the special corridor for the PC1 bus between the Masséna station and the Garigliano bridge


The special, separate corridor for the PC1 bus between the Masséna station (13è arrondissement) and the Garigliano bridge (15è arrondissement) was put into service on October 1. This measure, along with the cutting of the PC bus line into 3 sections, and the replacement of old buses, is intended to improve the quality of service on one of the most heavily used lines in Paris. The creation of a busway protected from general motor traffic along most of its length allows the speed of the buses to be increased significantly, to the great advantage of the passengers. However, in spite of warnings by the bicyclists' organizations during the public involvement part of the planning process, the project, which puts bicyclists into conflict with pedestrians as well as buses, is far from satisfying everyone it affects.

The city government of Paris hoped to take advantage of the major construction work this project required (installation of a concrete surface, placement of raised lane dividers) to create a continuous bicycling route the length of these boulevards. The intention was laudable. In certain sections (notably, those with widened bus lanes), bicycling travel conditions were in fact improved. However, bicyclists can not avoid noting that, far from improving their travel conditions, the majority of measures tend to make the bicycle route into an obstacle course, multiply the number of situations in which conflicts with private motor vehicles, buses or pedestrians occur, and are not satisfactory to anyone.

The opportunity to create a true "urban boulevard" as described by the civic organization  "Promotion des Maréchaux" was lost. While the issue of redistributing public space in favor of pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit always exists, and while the PDU [Plan de Déplacements Urbains, Urban Transportation Plan] has stated the goal of reducing private motor vehicle traffic by 5% in the course of its implementation over the next 5 years, certain sections of the project flagrantly contradict these goals. In fact, the project, even though it includes a reduction in the width of the roadway for private motor traffic in certain sections, still contributes to the privileged status of that traffic by giving it a central roadway without any obstacles. This roadway, with 2x2 lanes open to general motor traffic [homogènes], has had its character as an express route strengthened, while bicyclists and pedestrians have been relegated to sidewalks which are very narrow in places. The quality of life of abutters is necessarily diminished. In addition, it is a good bet that the speed and volume of traffic will increase on the Maréchaux as a result of this project.

More specifically, the bicyclists' organizations do not accept:

-that bicyclists should be led to share narrow sidewalks with pedestrians

when the roadway for motor vehicles could have been further narrowed without loss of a travel lane. The extreme situations which result (sidewalk almost totally eliminated between Porte de Vitry and the bridge over the Austerlitz railroad tracks, "pedestrian lane" 0.80 meter in width along with a 1.50m bicycle lane at the right in Calmette Square in the 14ème, passage of the bicycle lane in front of the Cité Universitaire station of the RER [regional railroad network], are absolutely amazing. Pedestrians are not fooled, and have already set forth petitions to protest against these situations, testifying to a deep concern for their comfort. On the other hand, the principle of keeping 2x2 motor traffic lanes on the Maréchaux is entirely debatable. This approach eliminates, right from the start, the possibility of having the wide (4.5m) bus corridors accessible to bicyclists, in favor of which the RATP and the bicyclists' organizations had voted.

- The design of numerous intersections.

These require bicyclists rolling on a cycle track on the sidewalk to "blend" into the flow of motor traffic on the Boulevard for several meters, before re-entering the cycle track or the bus lane/frontage road [contre-allée] after each intersection. It would have been much more judicious to treat the crossing for bicyclists like that for pedestrians, that is, separate from the flow of motor traffic, as is the case at certain intersections (Boulevard Jourdan/rue Faguet). This treatment would have made it possible to eliminate one of the two traffic signals and would have increased the safety of bicyclists by avoiding their having to share space, briefly to be sure, but without any justification, with motor traffic.

-the very large number of obstacles in bicyclists' way,

which make the route more of a trick riding course than a suitable route for bicyclists:

- the presence of sections on sidewalks

All of these sections, sometimes very short, cost bicyclists time due to the traffic signals at their exits, and force the bicyclists to go up onto sidewalks. From Kellermann Boulevard inwards, after crossing the Avenue d'Italie, the bus corridor is open to bicyclists for 5m of its length, after which bicyclists must ride on the sidewalk as far as the next intersection, etc...

- Proliferation of traffic signals

When a cycle track is placed on the sidewalk, bicyclists must wait for two consecutive traffic signals (one to get back onto the roadway, and the other to cross the intersection with the motor vehicles). The probability of crossing the intersection in one signal phase goes completely to zero, while on the other hand, motor vehicles on the Maréchaux have a green light nearly 60% of the time. If the intention is really to encourage bicycle use, is it acceptable that bicyclists have twice the number of traffic signals that motorists have?

- Poor synchronization of the many traffic signals

As a result, bicyclists are at some places required to wait more than a minute for a green light which lasts only 7 seconds (Boulevard Jourdan / rue Faguet ; Boulevard Kellermann / rue Gouthière), while pedestrians and motorists have much longer green lights for the same crossings. This type of timing creates a strong incentive not to obey the signals. 

- curb cuts for the cycle tracks too often placed perpendicular to the roadway

These routings make diagonal access very hazardous. The bicyclists are forced to make a wide turn to enter the sidewalk at a right angle, placing them in conflict with the buses and taxis traveling at the right side of the roadway.

- sidewalk entrances that are not depressed to street level.

The bicyclist must climb onto sidewalks one after another in certain segments, causing not only considerable discomfort but also a significant risk of falls.

- insufficient protection of entrances and exits of cycle tracks on sidewalks

In the absence of meaningful policing, motor vehicles park on these with impunity, obliging bicyclists either to turn back or to dismount.

- erroneous or incomplete signing of the bicycle route

(example: Kellermann Boulevard inbound in front of Charléty stadium: it is not indicated whether the unprotected and narrow bus corridor is, as appears to be the case, open for use by bicyclists)

- Protruding stubs [plots] in the middle of certain cycle lanes, or at the level of access points

These help to make bicycle travel a bit more complex and dangerous…


The treatment on the Boulevard des Maréchaux is not acceptable. The organizations, repeating the statements formulated by the abutters, therefore request:

1- That such treatments not be installed on the rest of Maréchaux, and notably, on the second section (Porte de Bercy-Porte de la Chapelle) which is to be reconstructed before September 2000;

2- That the error committed in this section between the Masséna station and the   Garigliano bridge be corrected promptly.

Bicyclists have no reason to use ill-conceived facilities, and have no other option in certain segments than to ride in the bus corridors, even if these have not been widened. These poorly-conceived facilities, which testify to a poor understanding of the needs and limitations of bicyclists, will therefore, in sum, lead to a result opposite the intended one.

Paris, 21.10.99

Organizations which have signed onto this document:

Mouvement de Défense de la Bicyclette (MDB) - Association Réseau Vert - Vélo XVetVII (15è et 7è arrdts) - Vivre à Vélo en Ville (Montreuil) - VéloCité - Collectif Promotion des Maréchaux - Association pour le Développement et l'Aménagement du 13è (ADA 13) - Association de Sauvegarde de l'Environnement de la Porte des Lilas (ASEPL) - Association des Usagers de l'Administration (ADUA) - Association des Usagers des Transports Ile-de-France (AUT) - Association pour la Sauvegarde et la Mise en Valeur du Paris Historique - Association Transports 20è - Environnement 92 (52 associations) - Groupe d'Etude de la Petite Ceinture (GEPC) - Les Droits du Piéton - Les Voûtes de l'Ourcq - Résistance à l'agression publicitaire (RAP) - Urbanisme et Démocratie - Vingtième Arrondissement (10 associations)

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Contents © 2000,
Mouvement pour la défense de la bicyclette
Translation by John S. Allen
Last modified 22 March 2002