Paris follows the path of Idaho, and lets bicycles run red lights

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Carol Hills: The Tour de France is going on right now, and so far it’s been a dangerous race with lots of crashes and falls. One top rider is out with two fractured vertebrae. But here’s another cycling story out of France: Paris is now allowing cyclists to treat stop signs and red lights as if they were yield signs. I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t cyclists everywhere do this already?” Well maybe, but it’s not actually allowed by law in most places. The World’s Bradley Campbell was just in Paris cycling around, and he says this new policy in the French capital sounds really familiar to him.

 

Bradley Campbell: This may be the very first time that Paris is following in the footsteps of Idaho. They’ve had this policy since 1982, and the term in fact for treating stop signs like yield signs for bikes is known in planning circles as an “Idaho Stop.”

 

Hills: Well, how has it worked out in Idaho?

 

Campbell: Well, since it was implemented some 30 years ago, Idaho hasn’t seen any real increase in bike accidents, bike injuries, or bike fatalities. Now, of course, Boise isn’t Paris. But France ran a series of”¦ I guess we could call them Idaho Stop test runs in smaller cities like Bordeaux, and just like in Idaho, bike accidents remained about the same. What did change though was the number of collisions between bikes and cars. That went down.

 

Hills: That’s incredible. So, it is more safe, then?

 

Campbell: Well, it’s shown--again, not necessarily to be more safe--but to not be any more dangerous. The real big goal is that it’s trying to make cycling in Paris more appealing. Paris city planners want more people on the bikes. They even want to triple the number of cyclists in the city by 2020--that’s just five years away. It’s certainly ambitious, but you know Carol, it needs to be done. Something needs to be done to cut down on the air pollution. Smog is a huge problem in the city. When I was walking around in the streets, I could just feel myself breathing in chemicals, and I think the city of Paris is well aware of what cars and congestion is doing to its streets.

 

Hills: That’s amazing because I would never have thought of this as something that had to do with getting more people on bicycles. I thought it was about cyclist rights and “we wanted to go faster.” So, it’s a whole city thing about actually getting more people on bicycles.

 

Campbell: It is, it is, and it’s just trying to make it more appealing so that you can get through the city faster from point A to point B.

 

Hills: So, where’s this thing going to stop? Are they just going to start removing all the stop lights altogether?

 

Campbell: They could. I was in Amsterdam before I went to Paris, and Amsterdam removed all the stop lights at one busy intersection, and they just implemented one rule: If you’re going north-south, you have the right of way, if you’re going east-west, you have to yield. And the crazy part is at this one busy, busy intersection, it worked.

 

Hills: Wow, so I guess a place like Amsterdam, everybody is on the same page, it can work. Big question: would it work in other cities that aren’t as used to all this cooperation?

 

Campbell: It’s uncertain if it will or not, but...

 

Hills: It’s hard to imagine it in Boston.

 

Campbell: It’s hard to imagine anyone yielding in Boston.

 

Hills: Now, you mentioned Amsterdam, that you were there, and that’s just a huge city for bicycles, and you went there to report on problems that actually come with having too many bikes. What did you find out?

 

Campbell: Well, we put problems in quotation marks--any city would love to have too many bikes. But in Amsterdam, there are too many bikes and people kind of treat them like paper cups. Only, instead of throwing them into the garbage can, they huck them into the numerous canals in the city, and that’s why there are a team of biker fishermen.

 

Hills: Bike fishermen”¦ Ooh. So, did you go with them and catch anything?

 

Campbell: Oh yeah.

 

[Excerpt from audio]

 

Campbell: These guys pull up 15,000 bikes from the canals each year.

 

Hills: Fifteen thousand?

 

Campbell: Yes, 15,000. Now, I’ll explain all about it in the bike fishing story that’s going to air tomorrow on our show.

 

Hills: The World’s Bradley Campbell. I look forward to hearing about that. And thanks for telling us about the Idaho Stop coming to Paris.

 

Campbell: Hey, you bet, Carol.

 

Hills: And that’s all from us today. From our studios at WGBH in Boston, I’m Carol Hills. We’re back tomorrow.