Greening Paris

Paris mayor eyes virtually car-free city centre by 2022

Crossing rue de Rivoli in central Paris.
Crossing rue de Rivoli in central Paris. Jean-Baptiste Pellerin

In a further bid to cut down on traffic in the capital, Paris city hall has announced plans to bring in a “low traffic zone” in the heart of the centre by 2022.  

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Car traffic will be drastically reduced in the heart of Paris next year under a plan by socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo. It’s the latest step in her project to green one of the densest urban landscapes in Europe.

She launched a consultation with residents about how to implement the Paris Respirezone appaisée (Paris breathes - zone at rest) on Wednesday and which will go through to October.

Under the proposal, most vehicles would be banned from an area covering the city’s four central arrondissements that includes the two islands on the Seine river, the winding streets of the Marais and major landmarks such as Notre-Dame cathedral and the Louvre museum.

The zone would also extend across a large part of the historic Left Bank and its Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood.

It would mean that only “residents, buses, taxis but also artisans, professionals and delivery trucks will be allowed to circulate in this perimeter,” David Belliard, Paris’s deputy mayor in charge of transport, told Le Parisien daily.

"This isn't about eliminating all traffic" and there is no plan to introduce a congestion charge, Belliard added. "Residents, vehicles for the disabled, taxis, professionals and shop owners will still be able to enter."

Officials have yet to decide if motorcycles and tourist buses will be allowed inside the zone.

Anti-car?

Hidalgo won re-election last year with the support of the Greens (EELV). She promised to tackle pollution by building new bus and cycle lanes and reclaiming many roads for pedestrians, including the expressways on the banks of the Seine.

When the first 3-month coronavirus lockdown ended a year ago, city officials created 50 kms of coronapistes (coronavirus cycle lanes). It was designed to be a temporary measure, but mayor Hidalgo later announced they would be made permanent.

City hall’s green politics are popular with many residents concerned about pollution levels, but Hidalgo's critics accuse her of being anti-car. 

Aurelien Véron, a right-wing opponent on the city council, denounced the public consultation as a "foregone conclusion", and said Hidalgo was "basically asking drivers if they want to be eaten roasted or boiled".

Florence Berthout, mayor of the 5th arrondissement, also on the right, said she was "worried about the embolisation of traffic" outside the zone.

"People living on the outskirts of Paris will pay the biggest price," she said.

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