Paris goes car-free for the day as city fights against pollution
Half of Paris’ streets and avenues were car-free on Sunday (September 25) as part of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s fight against air pollution, allowing families and tourists to wander on the roads around landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees.
Parisians were encouraged to jump on bikes, skateboards, rollerblades or simply walk around the 650km worth of roads which went car-free, although exceptions were made for buses, taxis and some residents.
Paris Deputy Major Christophe Najdovski said the day showed that Paris can operate without cars.
“It’s one day without cars, it’s symbolic, but at the same time it allows us to imagine what the city of tomorrow could be, or at least a city where you get around differently. And so through today’s move, we want to invite all Parisians, all lovers of Paris to reclaim public spaces, to get around by other means and to make the most of an exceptional situation in the city. And also, why not say to ourselves each day we could move about differently,” he told Reuters TV.
In spite of the rain, thousands of walkers, joggers and cyclists reigned supreme on the car-free Champs Elysees avenue, which is typically a major east-west thoroughfare for one of Paris’ swankiest neighbourhoods, running from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.
“The first day, I smelt the city and I smelt the gas of the cars, and now it’s much better today, we like it a lot. I could do all the day biking in Paris, it’s very nice, even in the rain,” German tourist Margit Amon from Stuttgart said.
“It’s really good because we won’t be run over by cars and we are free to cycle,” 11-year-old Prune, who went on a bike ride with her mother, said.
Across the capital, attractions including a zero-waste picnic, walking tours and skating sessions were offered.
Sunday’s car free day is part of a series of environmentally friendly moves by Socialist mayor Hidalgo after several episodes of oppressive smog in Paris.
Earlier this year, the city banned old, exhaust-belching cars from its streets and the Champs Elysees avenue has been closed to cars one Sunday a month. The mayor has also promised to permanently pedestrianise a stretch of high-traffic road bordering the Seine’s right bank, a move which has been met with hostility from motorists who say it will only worsen the city’s congestion.
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