After reclaiming Left Bank from motorists, Paris’ Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo says chunk of highway along river Seine’s Right Bank will be pedestianised by the summer of 2016
Anne Hidalgo, Paris’ Socialist mayor, has unveiled plans to cut off a large chunk of the river Seine’s Right Bank to cars by next year, in the latest move to pedestrianise the heart of the French capital.
After reclaiming much of the Left Bank from cars despite outcry from motorists’ groups, Ms Hidalgo on Wednesday pledged to take similar steps on the opposite side of the river by the summer of 2016.
“This is an urban, almost philosophical project, which consists of seeing the city in another way than through the use of cars,” she said, citing as examples the French cities of Lyon and Bordeaux, whose riverbanks have been successfully reclaimed for pedestrians.
Paris has suffered dangerous pollution levels, with one recent survey briefly placing it above Shanghai in terms of harmful particles.
Ms Hidalgo wants to free up the Georges Pompidou highway, part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, on the North side as part of a wider push to drive automobiles from the capital.
“Yes, we are going to reduce yet further car traffic in Paris,” she said. “It is an ecological and public health challenge”.
Ms Hidalgo said the 2,700 cars that drive down the Left Bank per hour in peak periods will make way for gardens, strollers, boule pitches, children’s play areas and “floating markets on barges”.
As a result the vehicles that pass along the highway each hour at peak times will be moved elsewhere and their place will be taken by riverside gardens, games areas and people out for a stroll.
The car bank will start after the annual Paris Plage festival in 2016.
Precisely how much of the riverbank highway will be closed will be decided during a period of public consultation.
Paris town hall cited two options – either pedestrianising a stretch from the Pont de Sully and Châtelet or a much longer chunk between Tuileries Tunnel and Port de L’Arsenal, next to the Place de la Bastille.
Paris authorities insisted that driving time to cross the capital on the left bank only increased by two minutes when parts were shut to traffic.
However, pro-driver group 40 Million Motorists, which opposes the scheme and has set up an online petition, said the plan will double the time to cover the same distance.