PARIS (AP) – Visiting New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday that France and the United States could awaken environmental awareness throughout the developing world by taking leading roles in the fight to protect the environment.

“I think if France and the United States, Paris and New York do things (for the environment), you will find an awful lot of the rest of the world coming along,” Bloomberg told reporters following a meeting with French Minister of Ecology, Development and Sustainable Management Jean-Louis Borloo.

“Countries that people say aren’t doing their share – like China and India – I think those countries are going to come along when they see, and their people see, it’s possible to have a better environment and have it stimulate the economy at the same time,” Bloomberg told reporters.

France was the first stop on a tour that also takes Bloomberg to London. On Sunday, he is expected to deliver an address on the global economy at a Conservative Party conference and to meet Monday with London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Paris, increasingly conscious of environmental issues, came first. French President Nicolas Sarkozy created the ecology ministry in a bid to put France on the cutting edge of the fight against climate change.

Borloo – who last week unveiled a list of proposals aimed at making all aspects of French life greener – said the ideas were based on the principle that a healthy planet would improve the standard of living of people across the globe.

Bloomberg stressed the importance of sharing new solutions and noted France’s long-standing use of nuclear power, saying Americans were beginning to see it as a viable source of cleaner power.

He said he would study French initiatives for reducing pollution to see if there were applications for New York City.

One such initiative is Paris’ popular bike rental service, Velib, a new, popular rent-a-bike service. Bloomberg examined a stand of the rental bikes outside Paris’ gilded City Hall following a lunch with the mayor of the French capital, Bertrand Delanoe.

“You’ve got to hand it to the people of Paris. They’re willing to try different things,” Bloomberg said. “Some will work and some will not. Obviously this has.” The New York mayor fiddled with the gear shift on one of the sturdy bikes but did not go for a ride.

Bloomberg and Delanoe said that their cities share many of the same problems, particularly a housing crunch, poverty, the omnipresent threat of a terror attack and environmental concerns. They agreed they could learn from each other.

“We both have terrible traffic problems that are strangling our economic growth,” Bloomberg said, and added that he would examine some initiatives Paris has put in place to deal with traffic issues.

Making Paris greener has been a top priority for Delanoe, a Socialist who took office in 2001. In an attempt to reduce traffic and pollution in the city, Delanoe carved out special lanes on busy streets for bicycles, buses and taxis.

and recently installed a network of thousands of bikes that can be rented for a small fee.

“This is one of those creative ideas, and whether it works or not (in New York) we’ll have to see,” Bloomberg said.

On the street outside City Hall, Deputy Mayor Annie Hidalgo showed Bloomberg how the system, installed in mid-July, works, as hoard of photographers clicked away and perplexed bike renters gawked.

Bloomberg said some parts of the idea could fit in New York, but noted that helmets were required in his city even for bicycle riders – not the case in Paris.

AP-ES-09-29-07 1305EDT

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