Paris pushes new bicycle plan

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Paris wants to nearly double its network of bicycle paths and open up routes to the suburbs under a new plan unveiled on Wednesday by Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe.

Delanoe turned the city of lights into a city that bikes when he introduced the "Velib" bicycle rental scheme in 2007, providing residents and tourists with an eco-friendly mode of transport to cut down car use.

Paris city council will soon vote on increasing the number of bicycle paths, from the current 440 kilometres (275 miles) to 700 kilometres, by 2014.

"We want bicycles to be a larger part of Paris," said Delanoe.

Under the plan, cyclists will be allowed to whizz both ways down one-way streets that have a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour and 1,000 new bicycle parking spots will be built.

Ten new entry points will be created for cyclists from the suburbs who want to pedal into the city.

A citizens' association however reacted with scepticism to the plan.

"Some of these measures were decided in 2002 and were never put in place," said Pierre Toulouse, of the association promoting better cycling.

"We are happy to see that a bike plan is finally emerging, but it really lacks ambition," said Green politician Sylvain Garel, whose party runs the city in a coalition with the Socialists.

"We want bicycles to become the prime mode of transport for Parisians and visitors to the city," he said.

The push by Paris authorities to made way for pedal power in the city has not been without its share of problems.

Last year, the city was forced to replace the entire fleet of 20,000 bicycles from its rental scheme due to vandalism and theft.

Many European cities such as Barcelona, Geneva and Stockholm offer bicycle rentals but the Paris scheme ranks among the most extensive.

© 2010 AFP

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