Paris improves their ranking by two spots in 2015. For all the talk of cities like Seville and Dublin, the transformation of Paris is an exciting one. Not least because cities like London and New York take notice when their equals do things differently. Former Mayor Bertrand Delanoë led the charge for change between 2002-14 until he stepped down, highlighting the importance of political vision and will. Few would have believed that Paris could have pulled it off but they're doing just that. The city's bike share system, Vélib, firmly placed the bicycle back in the city and the citizens embraced them.
Traffic calming like 30 km/h zones and removing last-century car infrastructure helped continue the charge. Paris lacks knowledge about designing infrastructure for cyclists and their engineers and planners often choose sub-standard solutions that don't make much sense. Nevertheless, the city is on the cusp of becoming a great cycling metropolis. Their modal share inside the ring road is 8% when measured by people arriving at work and education. Cargo bikes are gaining in popularity, including logistic solutions for small goods delivery. The city is keen to experiment - something that Copenhagen has benefited greatly from.
The current Mayor, Anne Hildalgo, has been talking the talk. She boldly declared that Paris will be the best bicycle city in the world by 2020. That won't happen. Sorry. Not by a long shot with the current lack of understanding about planning for bikes and the French traffic engineering culture. But many aspects of Paris' achievements are inspirational for other cities and and a Top 10 finish is within reach.
At the heart of a wider region that includes a number of cities in the Top 20, Paris is in good company. When you are Paris, however, your "region" includes the cities that you compare yourself with, like London, New York City and Tokyo. The latter slipped out of the Top 20 this year due to lack of any political will for change, among other things. The former still struggles to figure out how to make infrastructure for bicycles and tackle the perception of cycling as sport and recreation for Mamils (Middle-aged men in Lycra). Only New York City is interesting to Paris. With a Top 30 finish, New York City is improving rapidly and may be making an entrance on the Index in the years to come.
Paris doesn't understand bicycle infrastructure design enough to make it the world's best city for cycling. That point alone is their greatest Achilles Heel. There is no uniformity to their fledgling network. A huge redesign of the intersection next to Montparnasse Tower - with wider sidewalks for pedestrians - completely ignored the needs of the modern urban cyclist. The city needs better intermodality, parking facilities and links with the suburbs and if they want to be the best, they must think bicycle first. It's as simple as that.