Speaking of health and well being, I took another spin on Velib’ the other day. While bike lanes are still few and far between in Paris, there are more of them than before, and I thought why not take advantage of the ample bus lane configuration on Boulevard Montparnasse. I set out from Gobelins on a bus/bike lane that runs in two directions in a parallel universe on one side of Boulevard de Port Royal. It’s like a separate street with two-lane traffic that just happens to run right next to another one. At this point in my travels, the bus/bike lane was on the left (to me) side. Once I got over my disorientation, I was a happy camper, because there was barely any traffic and I felt relatively safe, even if I did have to look over my shoulder from time to time to see if a bus was creeping up on me.
Then, as I crossed Avenue Denfert Rocherau, I saw a labyrinth of markings on the pavement and suddenly the two-way bus/bike lane switched to the other side of the street! “This is too much for me,” I gasped, as I ducked over to the crosswalk and walked my bike across the street, as I tend to do when I lack the courage to cross interminable Parisian intersections with angry cars snorting on every side. As my heart rate returned to normal, I got back on my bike and continued down the bus/bike lane thinking that now the way was clear all the way to Montparnasse.
It was then that I came up on what my map tells me is Place Picasso, but my heart calls The Nightmare. This time, the markings on the road were clear: when the light changes, follow the white lines across the intersection and rejoin the bus lane on the other side. I looked over to the other side. It looked doable. It looked like a clear and simple procedure. It even seemed logical. So when the light changed, I crossed. I was the only bike on what felt like a freeway onramp, or a train turntable, or some other place where a bike just shouldn’t be. I pedaled across for what seemed like several kilometers, all alone, with about 14,000 cars staring me down from 12 different directions, all poised to come charging out of their starting blocks the second the light changed. What if I didn’t make it to the other side before that happened? “I’m going to die!” I shrieked as I crossed, my heart jumping into my throat, my body covered in a cold sweat.
To my amazement, I made it across. It took a good fifteen minutes for my heart to stop pounding. I know I’m a cowardly weenie, but could someone please build decent bike lanes in this city? Please? I understand that bus lanes make handy bike lanes too, but a bike is not a bus...