France in top 5 for cycling in the world, Google Maps data shows

Rising cycle route use pushes France and the city of Paris into the global top 5, amid record bike sales and national and local government help for bike purchases

A man cycling in a city. France in top 5 for cycling in the world, Google Maps data shows
France is in fifth place globally for cycling routes, with Paris third worldwide for individual cities
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France is number five in a list of countries in the world for bike use, new data from Google Maps’ cycling app shows. Paris is the third city in Europe, just behind Amsterdam and London.

Google Maps compiled data from its app across 30 countries, which shows how many users used the app’s cycling direction function to complete their journeys, to coincide with this week’s World Cycling Day.

Google Maps offers users journey options including driving, taking public transportation or a taxi, walking, or cycling.

When it comes to going by bike, Germany took the top spot, followed by the US, the Netherlands, and Japan, with France rounding out the top 5.

Bike use in 2020 in France increased by 45% compared to 2019, which helped push the country’s rank higher, Google said.

Worldwide, users appear to be using Google Maps and bikes to get around more than ever, with searches relating to “bikes” having tripled in the past year.

Paris riding into fourth

The data for individual cities pushes France even higher, with Paris coming in fourth place, behind London (third place) and Amsterdam (second place). Tokyo took the global top spot.

The most-searched bike routes in Paris are in the Arts et Métiers, Palais Royal, and Oberkampf neighbourhoods.

In the ranking of French cities, Nantes is ahead of Paris, with a cycling route search increase of 60% in 2020 compared to last year. Paris comes next, followed by Lille (up 55%), Marseille (52%), Bordeaux (51%) and Lyon (48%). The city of Toulouse saw the lowest rise, at 23%.

Average cycling journey length in France is also on the up; 2% higher in the past year. Worldwide, journeys for 2021 are up on average 10% than in 2020.

Rising bike culture

The pandemic appeared to push up bike use considerably in France, with a record 2.7 million bikes sold in the country over 2020 (up 1.7% year-on-year), and the industry growing by 25% year-on-year to be worth a record €3 billion.

Of the 2.7 million bikes sold, 514,672 were electric.

Jérôme Valentin, president of the Union Sport & Cycle told BMFTV: “The craze started in September 2018 with the launch of the ‘plan vélo’ (bicycle plan) by the government. This plan is the cornerstone of the launch of cycling culture in France."

The government’s plan has included installing dedicated cycling lanes along roads, and offering financial aid to help people buy and repair bikes.

Mr Valentin said: “Our industry did well in 2020, but we must stay alert. 2021 remains a challenge because we have to face logistical issues to get the necessary pieces in place to satisfy demand.”

Financial help for bikes

France offers a number of financial aid packages to help people start cycling more, including a €200 grant for lower-income adults towards the purchase of an electric bike.

Some regions, such as Ile-de-France, Occitanie, Corsica and Pays-de-la-Loire, offer extra aid towards the cost of a bicycle. The amounts vary from €150 to €600 depending on the region, with the amount never exceeding half the price of the bike.

Some large cities also offer extra help, including Paris and Marseille.

A full list of possible grants can be seen on the government website here.

Bike rules and fines

The country has clear rules for biking road use, with standard fines depending on the infraction.

These include riding at night without a high-visibility jacket or lights (fine of €22-€150); not having working brakes (€45-€180); using your phone while riding, not giving way, not following the rules of the road (€90-€375).

Fines increase in amount if they are not paid after a certain amount of time. Fines can reach as much as €1,500-€3,000 for repeated offences.

A full list of rules and fines can be seen here.

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