Paris plans car free city centre


Photo credit:  Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo has announced plans to reduce traffic and pollution by converting the city centre to a primarily pedestrian and bicycle zone, in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.  Hidalgo wants to tackle the level of pollution in Paris with a view to decreasing its effects on the health of the population.

Increasing pedestrian traffic and bicycle routes

The city centre is made up of four districts and under the new plans automotive traffic will be limited to buses, taxis, residents’ cars, delivery and emergency vehicles.  Bicycles and pedestrians will take centre stage in a scheme planned to be initially rolled out at weekends.

Paris was the first European capital to introduce a city-wide bicycle scheme in 2007 by then Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe, known as Vélib [vélo = bike, liberté =freedom], with the now famous grey shared bicycles available from stands around the city. The original plans included expansion of the scheme to neighbouring towns and building over 700km of dedicated bicycle routes by the end of 2014.

Ms Hidalgo also announced in the interview that the number of dedicated cycle lanes would be doubled by 2020 through an investment of €100 million and plans to include electric-powered bikes in a scheme similar to the Velib network.

Restricting undesirable traffic

Hidalgo’s plan extends to limiting automotive traffic to “clean vehicles”:

“I want diesel cars out of Paris by 2020,” Ms Hidalgo said in the interview published on Sunday (in French). [BBC News Europe 7 December 2014]

Approximately 84% of Paris residents agree with their mayor that fighting pollution is a priority and 54% support a ban on diesel vehicles, according to a poll carried out for the Journal du Dimanche.

Plans by the mayor for the city’s new look and feel also fit with residents’ growing use of car-sharing services such as Autolib which has over 170,000 subscribers in Paris.  Hidalgo intends to add electric-vans to the scheme, following the desire to put limits on tourist buses and ban trucks from cutting through the city.

With Parisians falling out of love with the idea of car ownership, Hidalgo’s plans are likely to strike a chord with many of the city’s occupants.  In 2001 40% of Parisians did not own cars; in 2014 this has risen to 60%, leading the European trend of a 25% decline in vehicle ownership since 2007.

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