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<a href = " "> Piétons et cyclistes sur l'avenue des Champs-Élysées à la journée sans voitures 2015 │© Ulamm/Wikimedia Commons
<a href = " "> Piétons et cyclistes sur l'avenue des Champs-Élysées à la journée sans voitures 2015 │© Ulamm/Wikimedia Commons
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Paris Will Be Having A Car-Free Day

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 29 June 2017
Pollution is becoming a perennial problem for Parisians and a thorn in the side of the authorities tasked with its reduction. The air quality has gotten so bad that one resident is taking the government to court over its impact on her health, so an expanded ‘Journée sans voitures’ on October 1, 2017 is the latest move by City Hall to appease locals.

The decision to ban cars from the French capital isn’t without precedent. The past two years have seen so-called car-free days take place in early autumn, though they weren’t as robust as the name might lead some to believe. In 2015, only the most central districts of Paris participated in the scheme and in 2016, the area was modestly expanded to reach the famously-congested Champs-Élysées in the west, Père-Lachaise cemetery in the east, the Sacré-Coeur in the north, and the Tour Montparnasse in the south.

Traffic jam on the Champs-Élysées │© Ben / Flickr
stuck in the traffic jam │ | © Ben / Flickr

This year, however, City Hall means business: no cars, motorcycles, or mopeds will be circulating in the arrondissements of Paris between 11 am and 6 pm—except taxis (including Uber-style ‘artisans’), emergency vehicles, delivery trucks, and RATP public transport services. Even these will not be allowed to exceed a strict 30km/h (18.6 mph) speed limit across the city.

For seven blissful hours, cyclists, skaters, roller bladers, non-motorized scooter-ers, and, of course, pedestrians will rule the roads.

Notre-Dame, Paris sans voitures 2016 │© Ulamm / Wikimedia Commons
Place du Petit Pont (dehors de la zone sans voitures) à la journée sans voitures 2015 │ | © Ulamm / Wikimedia Commons

‘The idea is to show that you can live in the city without having a car,’ the Deputy Mayor in charge of transport, Christophe Najdovski, told Le Parisien. ‘This third edition will not only benefit Parisians but also the inhabitants of Île-de-France, and tourists. It will be a first in the history of the capital and will allow everyone to rediscover a quieter and less polluted city.’

Najdovski’s boss, Mayor Anne Hidalgo, has made greening the capital a top priority. The most visible move to date has been the creation of the Parc Rives de Seine out of a former city center highway. Other policies aimed at improving air quality include subsidies for planting living walls and testing pioneering forms of electric transportation such as flying water taxis.

Rue de Rivoli, Paris sans voiture 2015 │© Tangopaso / Wikimedia Commons
2015 Car-Free Day in Paris – rue de Rivoli (Paris, France) │ | © Tangopaso / Wikimedia Commons

Hailing the 2015’s Car-Free Day an ‘indisputable success’, Hidalgo claimed it ‘involved citizens, reduced emissions and noise pollution, and roused the spirit of Parisians and tourists.’ Airparif, which monitors air quality in Île-de-France, lent credence to this appraisal, suggesting a 20 to 35% reduction in nitrogen-dioxide levels during the event last year.

At the national level, a Crit’Air sticker scheme has been introduced to exclude the worst-offending vehicles from the center of Paris. Hidalgo also plans to ban all diesel cars from the capital by 2020, five years ahead of the national target.