France’s former Minister of Health Agnes Buzyn. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
Whether or not to build protected cycleways has become a flashpoint in the contest to become the next Mayor of Paris. Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor, has promised to make every street in Paris “cycling friendly,” but this is opposed by other candidates, including Agnès Buzyn, who was recently parachuted into the mayoral election by the country’s governing party.
Speaking on national TV on March 4, Buzyn said: “Cycling in Paris is not good for your health.”
Buzyn resigned as France’s Minister of Health on February 20 in order to fight the mayoral election on behalf of Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party.
On January 29, Hidalgo revealed that the space required to make Paris cyclist-friendly would mostly come at the expense of motoring. Under her plans Paris would remove 72% of its on-street car parking spaces.
During last night’s televised mayor debate—billed as La Grande Confrontation Paris—Buzyn claimed that Hidalgo’s plans to make the French capital more cycle friendly were “not pragmatic, they are violent.”
Buzyn is a former university professor and medical practitioner who had served as the Minister of Solidarity and Health in the French government since May 2017.
Cycle advocacy group Paris En Selle tweeted that Buzyn’s claim was “not true, and in fact it is not a very encouraging message for the future of cycling in Paris.”
In an interview with a French Sunday newspaper published on February 23, Buzyn said she wanted to encourage cycling but that cutting car parking spaces was “punitive ecology,” and that making streets more cycle friendly “excludes a large number of Parisians.”
Buzn’s claim that cycling in Paris was bad for health was made during the first municipal TV debate, broadcast on LCI last night.
During her current term of office Hidalgo has aimed to transform Paris into a people-friendly city. Her “Plan Vélo” transport changes have included removing space for cars and boosting space for cyclists and pedestrians.
“If you liked Season 1 [of Plan Vélo] , you will love Season 2,” she insisted in February.
According to a 2019 study by Atelier Parisien d’Urbanisme (Apur) there are 83,500 on-street parking spaces in Paris—Hidalgo plans to remove 60,000 of them. (There are 621,600 parking spaces in total in Paris, most of them are domestic ones or commercial car parks.)
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
An a second term, Hidalgo, mayor of Paris since 2014, wants to carry out what she calls an “ecological transformation of the city,” aiming to clean the city’s air and improve the “daily life of Parisians.”
One of the flagship policies in the current term was the creation of a cycleway on the right bank of the River Seine, which has been completely free of motor traffic since 2016.
During last night’s TV debate the other mayoral candidates were asked whether they would reverse this policy. None confirmed that they would, possibly demonstrating that Hidalgo’s “anti-motoring” policies have been popular with many Parisians.