Scenes From the Big Car-Free Day in Paris

The air was noticeably clearer yesterday over the city of Paris, where people walking, biking, skating, and otherwise getting around without a motor took over streets generally packed with cars, including the Champs Elysées.

About a third of Paris was free of motorized vehicles from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for buses and taxis. Car speeds were capped at 20 kilometers per hour in the rest of the city.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, at the urging of activists, initiated the massive car-free event as a lead-in to the city hosting COP21, the United Nations’ upcoming conference on climate change. Paris is plagued by diesel exhaust, and the skies over the city were noticeably bluer yesterday, according to the Guardian. The exhaust cleared. The rumble of traffic was gone. People seemed happier and less stressed.

One of the tens of thousands who took to the streets told the Guardian it was “like a headache lifting.”

Camille Carnoz of the bike activist group Vélorution said she hopes the car-free day leads to permanent changes:

Today is symbolic, it’s about giving people a dream, showing us what a city could look like without cars, a type of utopia. But we need to go further, with more and larger cycle routes, better parking spots for bicycles, slower speed limits. There’s a lot to be done.

Here are a few more views of the day without cars.

Faire du foot sur les champs élysées A photo posted by Chloé (@chloemyrtille) on

#speedsail #skate #journeesansvoitures #ruederivoli #paris   A photo posted by Guido Romero Pierini (@guidoromeropierini) on

#journeesansvoitures A photo posted by Lucy Marchand (@luwith1y) on

#Paris #avenuedeschampselysees 27 septembre #journeesansvoitures #paris_maville @Paris @paris_maville   A photo posted by Sylvaine Caron Paris 19ème (@sylvainecaron) on

Drôles d’engins dans les rues de #paris aujourd’hui ! #journeesansvoitures #carsfreeday #insolite A photo posted by Héloise Fayet (@heloise.fayet) on