‘La rentrée’ is known throughout France as the period of panic as children and adults across the land return to school and workplace after the summer break. New itineraries and new timetables have to be shoe-horned into the family lifestyle within just a few days and adhered to for the rest of the school year.
Understandably it can take some longer to settle into the new routine than others, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Strasbourg, on the Boulevard de la Victoire – the main thoroughfare through the University district.
With something like 10,000 new students coming to the city every year their impact during the rentrée is significant. Not least because the majority turn up in town, not unreasonably, without a bicycle. Now running down the middle of Boulevard de la Victoire, between the tram tracks runs a nice wide cycle lane, and it is down here that we have to haul our kids to School 2-4 times a day.
Now, this commute would be a breeze if it weren’t for the hoards of absent minded bicycle-less students wandering aimlessly across/up/down the boulevard without the slightest regard for their own safety, without whom it wouldn’t be necessary to brake/swerve/scream every ten metres or so. Matters are then made worse where the cycle lane meets with the two tram stops at Universités and Observatoire where equally absent minded individuals disembark straight into the path of your oncoming two-wheeler.
It is usually well into October before the majority of these students finally click that the fastest and cheapest way to get around town is by bike. This does not then make the journey down the Boulevard any less stressful however as the majority neglect to obey any rules of the road and usually have an ipod permanently plugged in – so they can’t even hear your tinkling bell, or the truck that’s about to hit them, as they spin along. And let’s not forget the ones who choose to cycle one or no-handed while smoking, holding an umbrella or chatting on the phone as they cruise (some with their hands in their pockets on cold days – because they’ve forgotten their gloves).
I’m sure there must be statistics somewhere of the number of bicycle/pedestrian/tram related incidents on this road because it is total carnage four times a day, five days a week.
The obvious solution would be to close the road to traffic at busy times, as they do outside most primary schools in France, so that we could all spread out a little. I suspect however that the carnage will continue well into the future…