© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man rides his bicycle past a poppy flowerbed in Cambrai during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo
PARIS (Reuters) – Paris commuters took advantage of the capital’s newly expanded network of bicycle lanes on Thursday to pedal into town and bypass a public transport system severely disrupted by nationwide strikes against pension reform plans.
Workers across France walked off their jobs, leaving almost no local or regional trains running and wreaking havoc on bus and metro traffic in the capital.
But the 50 miles of new cycle lanes rolled out by Paris City Hall since the pandemic have helped Parisians beat the strikes by hopping on their bikes and scooters despite near-freezing temperatures.
“It’s cold, but I’ve got my final exam at uni and that’s why I’m taking my bike,” Marinella Mighiglieri, a Peruvian student told Reuters on the Boulevard Sebastopol bike lane, one of the world’s busiest according to the City of Paris.
“This strike is horrible, it never happens like that in my country, but here it seems natural. I’m getting used to it already,” she said.
Paris now boasts more than 350 kilometers of cycle lanes after Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo invested more than 150 million euros into new bike infrastructure.
Bike lane traffic has often surged during recent strikes. The last Paris metro strike on Nov. 10 boosted bike lane usage by 80% from average daily use that month. Thursday’s figures will be available on Friday.
On Rue de Rivoli, the famous thoroughfare running past the Louvre Museum, throngs of cyclists teemed through Paris.
Camille, 34, said she cycled home after she had to shut down her restaurant in the central business district for the day because of the strike.
“It’s really annoying. Everybody is remote-working so I’m losing the day’s business,” she said.
Another commuter, who had to get an Uber (NYSE:) bike at Gare du Nord station after struggling to reach the capital from the northern suburbs, had little sympathy for striking workers.
“It’s horrible. They’re a real pain the arse,” she said, giving her name only as Lola.
Not all cyclists were cursing the strikers, however.
“It’s been a real journey, but it’s OK, it feels nice on the lanes,” Emy Facconier, 26, said. “The strikes are fair. “In truth, I understand why they strike.”