Paris: reclaiming the city for cyclists & pedestrians

Paris pedestrianisation plan
Paris pedestrianisation plan
Photograph: JC Choblet, found on The Guardian

With a variety of traffic calming measures and bicycle promotion, Paris is quickly becoming a cycle city – although this takes time, so one needs to exercise some caution concerning where you bike (trust me)! 🙂 Still, with its famous Velib bike-sharing (and car-sharing) systems, great parks, public spaces and expanded bicycle lanes; the bicycle is an obvious choice. In addition to its cycling infrastructure, a “re-conquest” of pedestrian spaces is also underway on the banks of the River Seine. One kilometre of the road will be narrowed, to make way for pedestrian corridors, garden spaces as well as riverside bars and cafes.  An additional 2.5 kilometres will be deemed a “car-free zone” – first in a trial phase, and then long-term. While motorists have complained, the city has a lot to gain from this. In the place of a motor-vehicle way, Paris will construct parks, floating botanical gardens, sport courts and floating flower-markets.  Just another reason to coin this the city of Romantics…

Part of the newly openned pedestrian zone - the first users curiously explore Photo by Wouter de Zeeuw
Part of the newly opened pedestrian zone – the first users curiously explore
Photo by Wouter de Zeeuw

Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, the city’s mayor since 2001 representing the Socialist Party, has supported or enacted many of these schemes as well as like measures to support public spaces (e.g. the introduction of the ‘Paris Beach’ along the Seine every summer).  With this final push to close-off car traffic – welcoming instead bikes, walkers and people-watchers – this measure is set to leave him a strong cycling legacy. (Delanoë will not stand for re-election in 2014.)  As Paris’s government perhaps changes, this may threaten some of its recent cycling trends – either from new incoming politicians or city motorists – still many of these slow-transport projects are backed by national funding and policy support, and becoming accepted by the Parisians themselves as an integral part of the city. Here’s hoping they stand the test of time…

Want to read more? Check The Guardian or the New York Times coverage of this exciting project; or the Project Les Berges homepage (in French, English and Spanish).

Part of the newly openned pedestrian zone - the first users curiously explore Photo by Wouter de Zeeuw
Part of the newly opened pedestrian zone – the first users curiously explore
Photo by Wouter de Zeeuw
Paris recliams the city (c) Les Berges Homepage
On the banks of the River Seine, Paris reclaims the city
(c) Les Berges Homepage
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