Misia, Reine de Paris

Misia Godebska (1872-1950)

Exhibition: Misia, Reine de Paris
At: Musee d’Orsay
Runs: 12th June – 9th September 2012

The poet Mallarmé called her “ma rayonnante” and Proust, “ma sybilline”. She was a friend of Colette, Picasso, Cocteau, Coco Chanel, and was painted by almost all the notable French artists of her time. She was a perfect muse, and posed for Bonnard, Vuillard, Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir among others.

An exhibition currently at the Musee d’Orsay is dedicated to this legendry figure in French art from the Belle Epoque through to les annees folles.

But who was Misia Godebska, the woman who inspired some of the greatest works of the 20th century, yet never created anything herself? Who was this woman, to whom Ravel dedicated Le Cygne (The Swan) in 1906 and La Valse in 1920? Even her name is elusive, for having been married three times, she was known as Misia Natandon, Misia Edwards and Misia Sert.

She was born in Russia, brought up in Belgium and finally settled in Paris. Growing up in a family of musicians, she learned the piano from an early age, studying under the composer Gabriel Faure.

It was for her talent as a pianist that she first became known, giving her first public recital in 1892. However, she refused to make a career of music, preferring to play only for her friends and for her own pleasure.

There are many portraits that portray her before the piano, surrounded by friends, in her apartment on rue Saint-Florentin.

When she married Thadee Natanson (founder of La Revue Blanche) she naturally came into contact with some of the great writers and artists of the day.

La Revue Blanche was a cultural and artistic magazine full of progressive ideas in terms of art and politics. Collaborators included Vuillard, Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec. Misia did not directly participate in writing or editing of the magazine, but played hostess to all the collaborators, who would meet at Natanson’s country house to discuss, plan and write.

There are many photographs and paintings at the exhibition in which you can see that Misia was always present at these meetings.

Misia was hailed for her beauty, her love of parties and her musical talents. She was a regular hostess to the royalty of the art world in her apartment. Diaghiliev and Stravinski were regular visitors, and Misia introduced the latter to Gabrielle Chanel during a trip to Venice.

However, by the end of the 20s, her third husband had left her. Misia was consumed by grief and began to take refuge in morphine. Her parties became increasingly rare and spent most of her time alone in her apartment.

Her friends and artists began to forget her, and, after the Second World War, visitors become very scarce. Chanel was one of her most faithful friends and it was she who eventually dressed her friend for her funeral after she died on October 15 1950, doing her make-up and putting a dress with a pink belt on her.

Misia is buried in a little cemetery in Samoreau, in Seine et Marne, not far from her friend Mallarmé.

The exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay brings together portraits of Misia and her entourage as well as other works, documents and accounts of artists that illustrate the incredible amount creative work that went on around Misia.

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Summer in Paris… what to do?

Most people (and Parisians) will tell you to avoid the French capital during the summer months. It is hot, sticky, and incredibly busy. Despite this common knowledge, tourists still swarm into the city at this time of year. But, stickiness aside, there are still many attractions to coming during les grandes vacances.

Here are some ideas for making the most of your summer trip:

La Fete de la Musique

Every year on June 21st Paris becomes a jungle of sound. On every street and in every bar and café, from every corner of the city comes the sound of live music.
It is France’s annual music festival, and everyone is invited. Saxophones, guitars, drums, tambourines, didgeridoos… you name it, someone is playing it.
Head up to Montmartre for a gentle, bohemian evening, or stick around Saint-Michel and Saint-Germain-des-Pres for crowds and excitement all through the night.
Avoid driving as the roads will be crammed with traffic jams and pedestrians, but don’t miss this and perfectly Parisian party.

Paris Plage

Every summer, from mid-July through to late August, the quais along the right bank of the Seine from the Pont Neuf to Hotel de Ville become an urban beach.
The road is pedestrianized, and 800 metres of sand, deckchairs, ice-cream stands and other attractions replace the usual congestion.
It is certainly worth a visit, with make-shift bars, petanque and ping pong competitions, as well as ballroom dancing!

Summer Sales (late June until end of July)

Try to get out there early on during the sales period as the native Parisians are sharp and seasoned sales-goers, and will snatch up the best bargains very quickly.
This is a great opportunity to wander around the great shopping locations in Paris: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps (both on Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement) or the Champs Elysees.

Bastille Day July 14th

July 14th marks the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, the first major event of the French Revolution. The date is a symbol of French democracy.

There is always a military parade down the Champs Elysees, beginning in the morning, and fireworks at the Eiffel Tower in the evening. If you want to avoid the crowds at Trocadero, you can get an unrestricted view of the fireworks from Montmartre.

On Bastille Day there is also an open air gathering held at the Place de la Bastille (where the original Bastille was) with live music, dancing and people in costumes.

Outdoor Cinema – Parc de la Villette

During July and August every year there is a tradition of an outdoor cinema at Parc de la Villette (Metro: Porte de Pantin).
Check online for the program and head out there with a picnic and some friends for a great evening.
The English-language films are all with subtitles rather than dubbed and so it is still a fun activity even if your French is not brilliant.

Tour de France

The Tour de France is obviously a big event in France, and you can enjoy watching the tour throughout July in most cafés in the capital.
Better yet, watch the final stage of the tour on the Champs Elysees. Crowds line the Champs on the last day of the tour, and it is incredible to watch the speed of the cyclists as they whizz past you.

 

 

Biggest Buddhist Temple in Europe Opens in Seine-et-Marne

The biggest Buddhist temple in Europe was officially opened yesterday in Bussy-Saint-Georges (Seine-et-Marne).

The temple, about 30km from Paris, will be open to the public from 1 July. It is expected to receive visitors from all over Europe.

The Taiwanese pagoda measures 7000 metres squared and is divided into various areas. There is a prayer hall that can hold 400 people, over thirty bedrooms reserved for nuns and a “cultural exchange” space with an exhibition room, classrooms, a tea room and library.

“We have been waiting for a project like this for 20 years,” says Miaoda, a representative of the Fo Guang Shan association (a branch of Buddha’s Light International Association).

The new temple offers wonderful opportunities for the Fo Guang Shan association, which is currently very limited by the size of its centre in Vitry-sur-Seine, in Val-de-Marne. Every week they receive over 300 people and the temple is now too small.

French architect Frederic Rolland and Kris Yao, an architect from Taiwan, designed the pagoda. It is made mainly of wood and concrete and is not ostentatious at all but minimalist in style.

An sculpture of Buddha weighing eight tons and measuring 5 metres high sits in the prayer hall. It is made of white jade from Burma and was decorated in Taiwan.

The Buddhist temple is part of a cultural and religious project in area that includes plans for another pagoda, a synagogue, a mosque and an Armenian cultural centre by the end of 2013.

The buildings for this project for a cultural and religious district, launched in 2004, are entirely financed by the religious and cultural communities concerned.

“We need a building that can welcome many people, this temple will be able to welcome 1,100, and so we are very happy,” said Miaoda. She affirms that a project like this has been “wanted in France for 20 years”.


Book Review: Sagan et Fils by Denis Westhoff

Sagan et Fils by Denis Westhoff
Publisher: Stock
Release date (France): 30/05/2012

Francoise Sagan is synonymous with fast cars, cigarettes, teenage rebellion and expensive extravagance. But what was this mythical celebrity novelist like as a mother? In a new book that publishers have been clamouring for since her death in 2004, Denis Westhoff, her son, has written “his truth” about France’s “charming little monster”.

She became France’s first teenage literary star in 1954 when she published Bonjour Tristesse at the age of 19. It is the story of a rich, carefree, amoral teenager who goes to dangerous extremes to prevent her father from remarrying. The explicitness and ambiguous morality of the book caused a scandal, but the young author’s talent won her almost overnight fame.

Denis Westhoff, is Sagan’s only child, is now 50 years old and a photographer. Two years following his mother’s death in 2004 he accepted to inherit everything from her, which included a debt of over a million euros. He also inherited about thirty novels, and a dozen plays.

From the introduction of his book, Westhoff establishes that he is revealing half of his mother’s life “as attentively and objectively as possible”. Of course, as a son’s portrait of his mother, it is very different from the portrayals drawn by ordinary biographers. It is full of complicity and discretion.

Westhoff evokes an unpredictable mother who loved to live dangerously by pushing all boundaries. Revisiting certain places, he remembers intimate conversations, intense moments, happy but also painful: the terrible car accident, the addiction to morphine, the physical and financial deterioration.

Sagan’s son also describes those who were closest to her, including his grandparents and also his father, an American, Bob Westhoff. He shines a light onto the mysterious life of one of the great figures of French literature, who was for him a loving mother, very careful to protect her child from publicity.

The woman described by Denis Westhoff is a generous friend, and a generally joyful person. She also had a deeply solitary personality, preferring to be surrounded by friends, but subtly keeping her distance. Westhoff remembers, for example, the “peaceful and happy sanctuary” that was her house in Normandy, where they would read for whole afternoons, lying down in her study, while from the next room they could hear lively conversations and laughter.

Denis, born in 1962, never knew the insanity of his mother’s sudden fame after the release of Bonjour Tristesse, and he was quite embarrassed by her legend. Even his mother herself once said “I was a heroine in a comic book called Sagan. People only talked to me about money, cars and whisky…” Yet despite the celebrity and the myth surrounding her, Sagan does not seem to have been a distant mother, and it is hard to find any trace of bitterness in Denis’s narrative.

He describes a mother who taught him respect, freedom, indignation, enthusiasm, and who gave him a taste for reading. “My mother and I”, writes Denis Westhoff “we shared thirty real years of happness, of surprises, of intelligence, humour, spirit, ideas”. Sagan et fils is the nostalgic and tender declaration of a great filial love.

Bilingual Children in Paris

New expat parents often worry about how their children will fare in a foreign education system, and how they can keep their home culture and language alive for their little ones as they grow up.

Here are some tips for bringing up your bilingual children in Paris.

Meet other anglophone parents and children

There many ways to ways to meet other like-minded expats in the French capital. By doing this, you can allow your child to mix with children of the same mother tongue.

One excellent resource is Message Paris – a support group for parents or parents-to-be in the Paris area. It is English-speaking and includes people from many different countries. It is a social and supportive network with resources, regular activities, events, advice, and information.

You could also join The English-speaking Mums of Paris by signing up for free on their Meetup site. The group is open to any English speaking parents in Paris – members come from all over the world. All members can create meetings or suggest activities. They also offer mother and child yoga, music classes, and other events.

Hire an au pair or nanny

When looking for an au pair of any nationality you should regularly check the magazine Fusac (available online or pick up a copy at the American church).

If you prefer the security of an agency, there are many reliable ones a googlesearch away. Try Au Pair World or aupairparis.fr.

Nursery schools – English or French?

If you plan on sending your child to a French nursery school (ècole maternelle), you can do so providing your child will be two years old at the beginning of September, and is propre (potty trained).

French nurseries accept children aged two to six and are free, but register your child as early as possible to get a place because demand in Paris often exceeds the number of places. Most maternelles offer before and after-school childcare for a fee.

You may decide that the French system is the best option to help your child integrate, and it is generally the cheapest option too. These nurseries will strictly follow the French curriculum, preparing for collège, and then the lycee.

You can get a list of maternelles from the Mairie of your arrondissement.

Alternatively, if you feel strongly that you want your child to attend an international or bilingual school, the French capital offers a huge variety of them. These schools are largely privately run and so you will have to pay, but they do follow different philosophies of education, and you can pick one that suits your background and culture.

Primary and Secondary School

Competition is tough between the major international and bilingual schools of Paris. There is The American School of Paris, and the British School of Paris, which follow the model of independent schools from their respective countries. As with private education anywhere in the world, fees are high.

The École Active Bilingue provides a fully bilingual curriculum for French and international students. English is taught both as a native and foreign language.

All the major international schools offer the International Baccalaureate program.

Resources

The American Church (65 Quai d’Orsay) is a base for many expats, and there are lots of activities for your children to get involved with, including sunday school, a youth choir, and even the Angels Cheerleeding Squad for 8 to 12 year olds.

The American Library in Paris (10 rue du General Camou, 7th) is the largest English-language lending library in Europe, and a great place to meet other expats.

The Bus Bilingue for 3 to 11 year olds offers interactive classes to help bilingual children develop their language skills.

Kidjam offer weekly music class for babies up to 7 years old, led by a professional opera singer, trained early-childhood music teacher and mother. Singing is in English.

Paris d’enfants in the 10th arrondissement organises treasure hunts and excursions for parents and their children, as well as guided tours of the capital in English.

Trinity Tots is a non-profit association run by volunteer parents that helps english-speaking children aged two to four years old to develop both their language and their cultural awareness . They offer a variety of artistic and educational activities. It is open for 2 mornings a week, is not expensive, and is based at Holy Trinity Church, 15, Avenue Carnot, 78600 Maisons Laffitte


CLOCLO – Film Review

CLOCLO (‘My Way’)

Director: Florent-Emilio Siri
Cast: Jeremie Renier (Claude Francois), Marc Barbe, Monica Scattini, Benoit Magimel, Sabrina Seyvecou, Ana Girardot

Running time: 2 ½ hours

Opens: March 14th (France)

Claude Francois died in 1978 at the age of 39 trying to fix a faulty light-bulb while standing in his bathtub. It was not a dramatic death; not tragically reckless like James Dean’s, nor tragically mysterious like Marilyn’s. It was… stupid, to be honest. And his story is not all that unusual for a pop star: there is the difficult childhood, the disapproving, impossible-to-please father, the string of failed marriages and affairs, the tantrums, and the inevitable emptiness, despite all the money and extravagance. But this film really is something special…

If you know anything about Claude Francois, you will expect this film to be full of outrageously coloured suits, flares, outdated hairdos, hit tunes, silly dance moves and the famous “Clodettes” (Francois’ female dancers, invariably clad in sequined bikinis and high-heeled boots). It is, I am pleased to say, but even if you have a horror of all that 70’s cheesiness, you still cannot fail to be fascinated by the life of the extraodinary man that was Claude Francois.

Cloclo is a portrait of one of the biggest pop stars in French history. Claude Francois, affectionately nicknamed “Cloclo” by the French, took the nation by storm with endless chart-toppers during the ’60s and ’70s. If you have never heard ‘Je vais a Rio’, ‘Belles, belles, belles,’ or ‘Cette annee-la’, you will definitely know one of his songs: ‘Comme d’habitude’, which was later interpreted by Frank Sinatra under the title ‘My Way’.

The film is a real show, and one that goes beyond the glitter. Jeremie Renier is perfect as Claude Francois, not just because of his striking resemblance to the French star, but because he embodies an explosive exuberance that is infectious, and seems to ressurect the musical legend. His dancing is hypnotically, ridiculously flamboyant and true, and his anger tantrums are at once frightening, pathetic, and vulnerably touching. Renier convincingly delivers a sense of what made this complicated man tick.

Francois’ life is played out chronologically in a straighforward, faithful way. His priveleged childhood in Egypt, being raised by Franco-Italian expatriates, is vividly brought to life. So is the family’s descent into financial trouble after they were forced back to France in 1956, and the ensuing conflict between Francois and his father. Then it is a story of  mulish determination on the part of Francois, who pestered his way to getting his first record deal, despite consistent failures.

Claude Francois is still a musical legend in France today, and it is surprising that that a big-budget film hasn’t been made about him before now. His songs are classics, his dance moves indelibly branded in the French collective memory, but Francois was also the first French singer to start a fan club, and the first entertainer to put black dancers on television. He understood the concept of marketing before there was even a word for it in France, even going so far as to plan his own on-stage collapse, in order to stay in the newspapers.

His character is best understood through his tumultuous relationships: we see a jealous, insecure man, afraid to lose everything overnight. From dumping singer France Gall because she won the Eurovision song contest (“yes, you’ve won, France”, he says mercilessly, “but you’ve lost me”) to stalking the future mother of his children until she agreed to date him, we see a slightly manic, hardworking, perfectionist singer, dancer, lady’s man and savvy businessman obsessed with control. The building of his businness empire (including a modelling agency and magazine) which he managed himself, is shown as an equally obsessive activity.

One refreshing aspect of this film is that it doesn’t sugarcoat the less attractive aspects of Francois’ personality. The star is shown sleeping with fans, constantly cheating on his partners, and throwing a great many hissy fits. But his love for his parents, his sister, and most of all his two boys, who he strains to protect from the media, is of tear-jerking poignancy at some points in the film. Renier is bursting with exuberance and energy, and brings to life Claude Francois’ recording sessions and live performances with sparkling aplomb.

Presidential candidates get flustered over immigration, religion, and meat

Nicolas Sarkozy cunnningly continued to seduce France’s far-right voters on Tuesday by announcing that the country has too many immigrants, and that the system of cultural integration has become “paralysed” and ineffective.

The president stated on France 2 that, if re-elected in May, he would cut the number of immigrants from 180,000 to 100,000 per year.

He also said that he would limit access to benefits for foreigners, who (those who reside legally in France) currently enjoy the same rights as the native French.

Sarkozy announced that he would make welfare benefits available only to those immigrants who have been resident in France for ten years and who have worked for five of those years.

The president’s comments came at a time when the election campaigns have become caught up on issues of religion and national identity, and when Islamic and Jewish dietry practices have been the subject of a recent national debate which upset religious leaders.

The halal debate was started last month when Marine Le Pen (presidential candidate for the far-right party Le Font National) announced that all the abbatoirs in the Ile-de-France region were slaughtering their animals in accordance with the Islamic halal tradition. She also called it a scandal that non-Muslim consumers in Paris were being misled about the provenance of their meat.

It was later discovered the abattoirs in question were mostly suppliers for local Muslim butchers and that most meat sold in Paris came from other regions.

Jews and Muslims united on Tuesday to complain that they were being used as pawns in the election campaigns, after first Le Pen then Sarkozy and finally prime minister Francois Fillon criticised the production of halal and kosher meat.

The Grand Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, asked exasperatedly how the issue of kosher and halal meat could possibly be a major problem for France, particularly in a time of crisis, with so many other pressing problems.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith denounced the use of Muslims as “scapegoats” in the electoral campaigns in which halal slaughter has become a major issue.

To provoke these strong reactions from the religious leaders, Fillon had urged Muslims and Jews to consider scrapping “outdated” slaughter rules. The irony of his words was striking in a society that prides itself on its laicite – its secularism – the separation of religion and state. Under this arrangement, religion has no influence on the state, and the state no influence on religion. There have been no recent reports of religious officials advising the French government on how to run the country, but, it seems, the UMP (Sarkozy’s party) cannot resist advising the religions on how to best to alter their millenia-old, sacred traditions.

This being France, and this being a religious issue – and in particular one that concerns that most suspicious of religions, Islam – it couldn’t be dropped and, on Saturday, Sarkozy made the suggestion that meat should be labelled to inform consumers how the animal was slaughtered.

France has the largest Muslim ‘minority’ community in Europe (four million), and its largest Jewish community, (700,000).

The debate over how far France is willing to accommodate Islam, the country’s second religion, is a central issue to both Sarkozy’s and Le Pen’s presidential campaigns.

Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, however, who is currently ahead in the polls, said that he considered his rivals had taken the issue too far and suggested “restraint” was appropriate.

The first round of France’s presidential elections will take place on April 22, followed by the second round on May 6. Socialist Francois Hollande is currently excpected to win, according to the most recent polls.

No More ‘Mademoiselle’ for Fontenay-sous-Bois

A communist Mairie in the Val-de-Marne officially banned the use of the terms ‘mademoiselle’ and ‘nom de jeune fille’ (maiden name) on Thursday.

The municipality of Fontenay-sous-Bois judged these terms as discriminatory towards women. From now on, all adult women in the area will be referred to and addressed as ‘madame’, and will no longer be asked to provide their ‘nom de jeune fille’ on official forms.

The move came as part of a local plan for improved equality between the sexes, and will apply to all administrative documents.

The deputy mayor for women’s rights and equality, Nora Saint-Gal, said that although the law was only symbolic, it was nonetheless significant, and would help in sweeping away leftover traditions from the past which often go unnoticed, and are not recognised as being discriminatory.

She also highlighted the fact that it is perfectly possible to ask whether a woman is married or not without using the word ‘demoiselle’. Otherwise, she added, we would still be using the term ‘damoiseau’ (the male form of the word, meaning a knight’s squire or young man).

There has long been a debate in France over the term ‘mademoiselle’, and many feminist groups have been very openly opposed to it, seeing it as condescending, and an unnecessary intrusion into women’s private lives.

Other women feel differently about the debate: many French women will be flattered if you address them as ‘madamoiselle’, because you are suggesting they look young enough to be one. Similarly, a lot of francaises will be insulted if you call them ‘madame’.

Time will tell whether the rest of France will follow on from the example of Fontenay-sous-Bois…

Doisneau Photography Exhibition at the Hotel de Ville

“Doisneau / Paris / Les Halles” Photography Exhibition
Runs 8 February – 28 April 2012
Hotel de Ville, Paris
Free Entry

This exhibition presents 205 original photographs by French photographer Robert Doisneau. On show at Paris City Hall (Hotel de Ville) is a collection of vintage shots in black and white, as well as some larger, colour images, of the bustling market and social hub that was ‘Les Halles’ before and after it was destroyed in 1971 under President Pompidou (whose government considered it unhygenic and outdated).

Doisneau is best known for his classic black and white shots such as the iconic picture The Kiss at the Hotel de Ville, which has become a romantic staple of many Parisian postcards, key-rings, stationary and other tourist trinkets. However, this newly arranged collection is a veritable chronicle of Parisian life around ‘Les Halles’ during the period between 1933 and 1979.

The earliest picture of Les Halles, taken in 1933, is called Les filles au diable (The devil’s daughters), and shows two girls being wheeled backwards in a hand-cart across the market place. Later photographs, taken through the 1940s, 50s and 60s, allow us to glimpse the larger-than-life characters of the marketplace.

Market tradesmen and women are a feature of the exhibition, with one notably from 1968 (L’échaudoir de la rue Sauval) of a butcher’s blasé expression as he holds an enormous knife in one hand and a cow’s head in the other. La Marchande des Halles (1953) is an image of a large, burly woman with cropped hair and rolled-up sleeves, by her market stall. Her characterful, no-nonsense expression is touching and nostalgic, and you can almost hear her booming voice advertising her wares.

There is also La Marchande des fleurs, (The flower-seller) taken in the same year, which shows a bright-eyed young woman tying up flowers for her customers. Her expression is alert, humorous, almost mischievous.

But Doisneau does not only show us the respectable tradespeople of Les Halles: prostitutes, smartly dressed and leaning against the walls of Les Halles’ side streets, have surprisingly care-free expressions. La Fete (1968), taken in the year of the student riots, shows see a young man and two female companions on their way home from what we can imagine to have been a night of partying, laughing together, one wearing a fairy-tale-princess-style hat with tassels, as the market stalls are set up for the day.

Heart-wrenching shots from 1969 show traders being moved out of the market to be rehoused in the new purpose-built complex in Rungis, south of Paris. Rungis is now the largest farmer’s market in Europe and is where most Parisian markets, grocers, supermarkets and restaurants buy their produce.

A highly relevant exhibition considering the new developments at Les Halles currently taking place (the modern, underground shopping mall that replaced the original market is being renovated, and new gardens and pedetrian areas added), “Doisneau/Paris/Les Halles” is a beautiful, nostalgic homage to what Doisneau himself described as the “belly” and “soul” of the Paris.

‘Right-turn’ at red lights to be legalised for cyclists

Paris councillors yesterday approved an experimental ‘right turn’ at red lights to be legalised for bicycles in the two 30-limit zones of the 10th arrondissement of the French capital.

The idea is to test the concept whereby cyclists, driving on the streets around the Canal Saint-Martin area, will be allowed to pass through red lights, provided they are turning right or going straight ahead at a T-junction.

The ministerial decree authorising this experiment dates back to November 2010, but cyclists have had to wait for February 2012 for the final approval of the new road signs (a yellow bicycle in the middle of a give way triangle) to be made official. The junctions of the 10th arrondissement should be appropriately signposted by spring.

If the experiment in the 10th arrondissement (the length of which has yet to be determined) proves successful, the right-turn for cyclists will be extended to each of the 69 30-limit zones of Paris. Should this second experiment be successful, the new traffic rules will be extended in turn to the some 1700 crossroads with traffic lights in the city.

The heads of cycling associations across Paris are congratulating themselves on the implementation of the right-turn rule. But they regret the limits of the Parisian experiment. “Why limit the experiment to 30-limit zones? And why do we need to test a system that has already been proven successful, notably in Nantes?” asks Kiki Lambert, president of MDB association (Mieux se deplacer en bicyclette).

The Paris Mairie considered it a wise precaution to first measure the impact of the change on road-users (especially pedestrians) and its consequences in terms of road safety, before extending it further. Accident statistics for cyclists are not good:  last year, the number of cyclists involved in accidents increased by 14%. Lambert insists on the MDB website, however, that “this increase corresponds to that of the number of cyclists.”

“Who’s ever seen a cyclist stop at a red light? They already go through red lights, even though it’s not allowed. I see them do it every day, right under the nose of the police, who turn a blind eye. They’re just legalising something that’s already commonplace,“ says Franck, a Parisian taxi driver.

Angie, a student and resident of the 10th arrondissement, disagreed: “I’m a cyclist myself and I think this is a terrible idea! Cyclists should have to stop at red lights like everybody else and like I certainly do.”