As a study abroad student from Southern California, I am used to certain traffic laws, especially the most important one—pedestrians have the right of way. Unlike Los Angeles, the car capital, Paris has an accessible public transportation system which results in plenty of Parisians walking to and from their destination when getting off and on the metro. Although the metro can be convenient for study abroad students who commute to campus or plan to visit tourist destinations, they should keep the following tips in mind when walking through Paris.
1. Wear comfortable shoes.
This advice is especially true for women, but it can also be beneficial for men who like to wear dress shoes. Despite Paris being the fashion capital of the world, the majority of people I have seen on the metro have tennis shoes or comfortable looking boots on. Although some local Parisian women wear high heeled boots, they will, most likely, not be walking as much as you will be during your visit. As a tourist, the overwhelming amount of staircases and the miles you walk throughout the day may wear you down at some point; hobbling throughout the city with blisters on your feet may not make the most desirable fashion statement. But if you’re going out for a night on the town and won’t be walking as much, feel free to opt for the uncomfortable shoes.
2. Be conscious of your valuables.
Although Paris is relatively safe, one of the highest crime rates that the city faces is theft. Wearing your bag over your shoulder when walking down the street may prevent someone from snatching it, and keeping your bag toward the front of your body, where you can keep an eye on it, will also make theft less likely . If you decide to wear a backpack, try not to keep your valuables in the front pockets where they can easily be reached.
3. Don’t blindly trust the walk signal.
Even when the walk sign is on, traffic may not stop for you. If anything, sometimes it is safer to cross the street when the walk sign isn’t on and traffic has cleared up. If possible, try to cross the street when others are doing so. Drivers are more likely to stop for multiple pedestrians rather than for one or two.
4. Watch out for motorcyclists who use the sidewalks.
Because this is unheard of in the U.S., I was shocked when I first came across this; a delivery man on a motorcycle drove onto the sidewalk to get to an apartment on his route more quickly, unaffected by the fact that my friend and I were walking there. Other motorcyclists will park on the sidewalk and back up into pedestrians when they are getting ready to leave, so stay alert!
5. Keep an eye out for the small poles on sidewalks.
These types of sidewalks are dual purpose, serving as both a sidewalk and a side-street. Most of the time, these sidewalks are clear of cars, and it is safe to walk on the wider, middle section of the walkway. However, cars may drive through quickly, so be aware of your surroundings; when you see an approaching car, be sure to move to the narrow section of the walkway, blocked off by a row of poles. Also, keep in mind that some wide, cobbled sidewalks also serve as bus routes, so when in doubt, keep to the outskirts of the walkway.
Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of being a pedestrian in Paris, you can have a safe and enjoyable visit!