In Paris, at rush hour, bicycles outnumber cars on certain roads

By Pierre Breteau

Posted today at 8:00 a.m.

Sunday September 19, the City of Paris is organizing his seventh Car Free Day : Automobile and motorized two-wheeler traffic will be prohibited throughout the capital from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on the ring road and a few exceptions (public transport, taxi, emergency vehicles). This is an opportunity for the City of Paris to promote walking, scooters or cycling.

A central element of municipal policy since the early 2000s, the bicycle is a rapid means of transport (15 km / h average, which is more than the 14 km / h of motorists) and economical in place: a bicycle takes up about 1 square meter of floor space, compared to 6 to 10 square meters for a car. As a result, thanks to the enthusiasm for cycling since the health crisis, we now see more bicycles than cars passing on certain Parisian boulevards during rush hour.

Up to nearly 600 bikes per hour on average

To make the comparison, we processed the traffic data for the start of the school year, from Monday August 30 to Friday September 17, on Boulevard Magenta (10e arrondissement) and Boulevard Voltaire (11e arr.). These two arteries were chosen because they each have two-way lanes for motor vehicles and for bicycles. With a notable difference in land use, since the cycle paths are between 2 meters wide (boulevard Magenta) and 3 meters (boulevard Voltaire), against 8 to 10 meters for the roadway.

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During rush hour, around 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays, cycle lanes allow traffic between 23% and 109% more efficient than motorized lanes. On these boulevards, in September 2021, the lanes reserved for motor vehicles saturate and fail to exceed 420 passages per hour – knowing that an automobile in Paris is occupied on average per 1.1 people. On the other hand, cycle lanes see passing up to 580 bikes per hour on average.

On several major roads, more bicycles than cars at rush hour

This graph, of a typical week, shows the evolution of the average number of passages on two boulevards (Magenta and Voltaire) depending on whether they are made by car.
or by bike over the period from Monday August 30, 2021 to Friday September 17.

At the same time, bicycle traffic continues to increase throughout the capital, including during the first weeks of school. In September 2021, attendance exceeds the average for September 2018, 2019 and 2020, without reaching the record set last year, due to the release of confinement and the construction of temporary infrastructure.

An increase in cycle traffic that continues in 2021

This graph represents over a typical week, and in base 100, the evolution of the average number of passages of people by bicycle on the various counting points of Paris during the months of September 2018, 2019 and 2020
compared to the first weeks of September 2021 .

During peak hours, the level for 2021 is 10 to 40% higher than the average for the months of September 2018 to 2020.

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How we worked

To establish these typical weeks, we used the data published on the City of Paris “Open data” site. Then, as the number of meters has evolved over time – particularly between 2018 and 2021 – we added up all the bicycle passages for each hour and each meter, before dividing by the number of meters in service in order to obtain a hourly average per meter.

In doing so, with periods of several weeks each time, we were able to establish “typical weeks” depending on whether the car or bicycle count was carried out during a month from September and 2018 to 2021, or on certain Parisian arteries, as in the second graph.

Finally, the use of base 100 (100 being the Monday level at 9 am) allows us to compare these figures with each other.

Series “In one graphic” des Décodeurs illuminates the news in visual form. Find all the articles in our section.

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