Sneakers, Scooters, and Bicycles: Pedestrians in Paris Beware!

The Fashion Capital of the world has gone mainstream casual. While the Paris Fashion Week runway may still be haute couture—despite the reappearance of clunky, chunky throwback boots—the street scene is anything but. Gone are dressy work shoes and spiked heels. Dressing down seems to be the rage. Whether or not COVID hibernation is to blame, I don’t know, but even the older ladies and gents of a certain age are sporting sneakers (baskets in French).

Imagine those well-heeled 19th century folks time-traveling to Paris today. They would be aghast. Shorts and sneakers and jeans are in. As the weather cools, out will come the leggings, perhaps a skirt or two, but I bet sneakers will still prevail. Store window displays—normally the creative expression of high style—are full of the ordinary as well as shimmering, sequined sneaks, and splashes of color. Whether sparkling or plain, sneakers are the new street footwear, and stores are heeding the call. If you like to lèche vitrine (window shop), don’t be surprised at the new shoe presentations.

Even when American women were wearing jogging shoes and sneakers to work, the French femmes were holding out. Not any more. It was one of the first changes I noticed when I arrived in Paris after the two-year COVID traveling hiatus.

What would Coco say? As a woman who defied norms, she’d probably approve of the practicality.

Now, even if you are meandering the streets of Paris in those practical, rubber-soled shoes, be on the lookout for scooter speed demons of all ages and stoplight cutting bicyclists. With COVID restrictions in place last year, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, altered many of the roads, eliminating car lanes, reducing the speed limit, and creating bike paths in an attempt to transform the city into an eco metropolis.

As a bicycle rider, I applaud that. But many of the roads and roundabouts create directional confusion, and as a pedestrian I worry about being trampled when crossing streets. The crazies are out in force. And they think they own the roads.

Even when I was riding my rented bicycle along the road with the flow of bikes, I worried someone might smash into me when I stopped at a red light.  Faites attention (pay attention) when biking or scooting along the quays also. Auto prohibition notwithstanding, maneuvering on a wheeled vehicle around oblivious pedestrians can be a bit nerve racking especially on the weekends.

So, if you plan to visit Paris and wander, I urge caution. Keep your eyes open and check all directions before stepping off the curb. To read more about the developments, check out Liz Alderman’s excellent article in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/02/world/europe/paris-bicyles-france.html?referringSource=articleShare

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culture, Paris, Travel
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