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.”