Paris Mayor Pledges Bold Steps to Reduce Traffic in City Center

A decade of change to Paris streets has claimed significant space for transit, biking, and walking. Now Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to go further and limit cars in the central city. Photo: Wikipedia

After a decade of repurposing street space from cars to people, buses, and bikes, Paris isn’t done yet. The world’s most-visited city is now preparing to remove even more traffic from the streets in the name of walkability and clean air.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told the Journal du Dimanche this week that she intends to create four “semi-pedestrianized” zones near the city center. These areas would permit only bikes, taxis, buses, and cars driven by residents of the district. Delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles would also be given access, according to the Australian newspaper The Age.

Hidalgo said she plans to begin the policy of restricting through-traffic  during weekends, with the goal of ramping it up to a full-time policy. The proposal closely resembles a traffic reduction plan for central Madrid.

Hidalgo also promised to double the number of bike lanes in the city by 2020, pledging €100 million (US$123 million) to the effort. In addition, the mayor said she hopes to ban diesel engine vehicles within the city by 2020 and limit traffic on the famous Champs Élysées to “green” vehicles only.

These steps are largely a continuation of the path blazed by former mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who created bus lanes on nearly avenue in the city, overhauled wide boulevards with new bikeways and pedestrian spaces, reclaimed the banks of the Seine from cars during the summer with Paris Plage, and launched the huge Velib bike-share system with its 20,000 bicycles.

Those steps cut traffic in the city by 20 percent between 2002 and 2008. According to Hidalgo, the shift away from cars has only become more impressive since then. You may want to take this stat with a grain of salt, but the current mayor says the city’s car ownership rate has dropped from 60 percent to 40 percent since 2011.

11 thoughts on Paris Mayor Pledges Bold Steps to Reduce Traffic in City Center

  1. The “bikes can share the bus lane” concept was IMO a great way to enable a huge expansion of the cycling network in the very short term, but they should have developed separate infrastructure along all of those routes by now and haven’t.

    The main roads are super important in Paris as it has a very hierarchical street network. The local streets in neighborhoods are already fairly bike friendly due to their low speeds and (in many cases but not all) low traffic.

    The pedestrian zones are a great idea. Too many neighborhoods in Paris have a lot of pedestrians with very narrow sidewalks. Presently a lot of them already have lowish traffic so its often easier to walk in the road except to let a car pass.

  2. A thing to love about Velib, compared to every North American installation, is that the city treats it as a fully-equal function of government, not a “favor” done for “those people”.

  3. If only de Blasio had the leadership to do something like this. Instead, his platform seems to be “don’t ruffle any feathers; concentrate on letting a couple of horses retire.”

  4. One thing missing from the list of Parisian achievements is the Berges de Seine project, reclaiming the expressway along the left bank for use as a walkway, cycleway, and general fun place to be.

    Which should we do first: the BQE or the FDR?

  5. Paris is doing great things, though Streetsblog could do a better job pointing out the differences in scale and political system that influence decision making. Hidalgo’s City of Paris has about 2.3m people, and she is not directly elected. She is selected by the 163 representatives from the city’s 20 districts (arrondissement.) NYC community boards are a bit bigger, but City of Paris would be like Manhattan South of 96th Street and browstone Brooklyn, with each community board in NYC elected, with its own mini-mayor. Each district in Paris has a certain number of reps, depending on population, who vote for the overall mayor. As you can imagine, things would be pretty different here under that system. Also, NYC metro is roughly twice as big as metro Paris — 20m vs 12m, and that also matters.

  6. The link says it’s the first four arrondissements, namely 75001 to 75004 (you can google map each one, but basically the centre north of the river). When I lived on Rue du Sentier we had something similar for the streets near us, but only on Sundays. Bliss.

  7. Don’t they already do this in the 10th along Canal St Martin? They have these moveable gates set up that keep autos off the side streets that are closed on the weekends. I think this was there as early as 2010.

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