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'Forget crossing Paris by car': Hidalgo lays out urban vision ahead of Olympics

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo outside Notre-Dame cathedral in May.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo outside Notre-Dame cathedral in May. AFP

Three months after her re-election as Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo has divulged her plans for the urban transformation of the French capital in the run up to the 2024 Olympics.

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"Crossing Paris from east to west by car is something you’ll have to forget,” she said in an interview with daily newspaper Le Parisien, published Saturday.

Hidalgo's plans including opening seven new “coronapistes” – dedicated bike paths on major boulevards – adding another 10km to the 50km of paths that were hastily created when France came out of lockdown in May.

“I have just given the go-ahead for the creation of seven new bike paths of this type: on rue Marx-Dormoy, on the major boulevards between République and Boulevard des Italiens, on Boulevard de l'Hôpital, rue Linois, Avenue d'Ivry, rue Claude-Bernard and rue de la Grange-aux-Belles.”

It won’t all be done in a day, the Socialist mayor said, adding that once the lanes are made permanent, the makeshift yellow blocks marking their passage will be replaced with dedicated bike path markings.

For Hidalgo, the 2024 Olympics deadline is a metaphorical “foot on the accelerator” for plants to transform Paris and improve mobility.

In her sights are moves to ban petrol-consuming vehicles from the upper quays of the river Seine. "Shouldn't they be reserved for clean vehicles, buses and cabs?” asks Hidalgo. 

Other plans include a revamp of the Peripherique ring road that surrounds Paris – including a lane dedicated to buses and carpooling.

Tougher restrictions 

With new restrictions expected to be announced Saturday evening, Hidalgo told Le Parisien she was not in favour of closing bars and restaurants to stem coronavirus infections – a move that has cause much anger in the southern cities of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence.   

“We have to do everything we can to maintain the bulk of our economic and social life,” she said, though she conceded that if orders to temporary close bars and restaurants were given by police authorities, they would need to be applied.

After meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex to discuss the health situation, Hidalgo praised government efforts to re-establish a constructive dialogue – and therefore a relationship of trust – with the mayors and local communities.

“I have told the Prime Minister that I am ready to support the measures taken by the health authorities, as long as they are targeted and legible to Parisians,” Hidalgo said. 

During the interview, Hidalgo confirmed that “ephemeral terraces” – where restaurant tables have spilled over into streets, occupying parking places and other public spaces – would be extended until June 2021.

Restaurateurs will be given advice on reducing noise levels, which have led to complaints from residents, but there will be no meaningful move to tighten controls.

“These terraces have given Parisians back some joie de vivre,” Hidalgo said. “We all need them.”

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