Paris: reclaiming the city for cyclists & pedestrians – an update on Les Berges

IMG_1279Paris has an amazing public space project underway along the River Seine that I’ve followed for the last several months. It intends to permanently deviate vehicular traffic along some of the city’s busiest roads, transforming a few kilometers of this arterial into a cycling and pedestrian zone: full of cafés, art and entertainment spaces, bike paths and floating gardens.

IMG_1286In July 2013 on a visit to the city soon after its official opening, I was eager to see this public space project firsthand. Wandering through the area, it did not disappoint. Paris just became a bit more magical. Les Berges exceeded all expectations!  On the river’s left bank, between Musée d’Orsay and Pont de L’Alma (the Alma Bridge), an area of 2.3 kilometers has been converted into a cycling and pedestrian zone.

IMG_1312 Along the way, one can find: a floating greenhouse, floating park spaces with very comfortable lounge chairs (trust me), a children’s park, including a climbing wall for kids (built directly into the rock wall), numerous bars and cafés, a performing arts school, skate park and public edible garden…

 

IMG_1323The river bank project, which spans six of Paris’s downtown bridges, is structured along several themes: nature, culture, leisure and sports. Les Berges aims to become a space in which Parisians and visitors of all ages and interests can mingle. Additionally, as part of the Paris Biodiversity Plan, the redevelopment will bring nature back to the urban core.

IMG_1316Legacy Project?

Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris (2001- 2014) and member of the Socioloist Party, decided he would not  stand for re-election and thus wanted to create a lasting legacy of his tenure. Les Berges, estimated at  €40 million project, does so quite tangibly.  Delanoë is a cycling and public space enthusiast, and was an instrumental figure in many of Paris’s recent measures to expand cycling and pedestrian infrastructure  (including the Vélib bike-sharing system, widely considered one of the most successful public bike sharing systems to date).

IMG_1340Walking around the area or hoping on a Vélib bike, it becomes evident what influene a mayor can have on a city. Thankfully for Paris, this is a good thing.  Want to know more? Check out the Les Berges website or project plan. There is also a calendar of events, if you are visiting to Paris. And, as the saying goes: a picture says a thousand words – I kept my camera busy!

 

Entering the left bank of Les Berges, along the Alma Bridge
Entering the left bank of Les Berges, along the Alma Bridge
Floating Greenhouse near Alma Bridge
Floating Greenhouse near Alma Bridge
Cleaning the Seine River with reed beds - urban ecosystem services in action!
Cleaning the Seine River with reed beds – urban ecosystem services in action!
Only a few problems remain... you have to waith your turn. No worry though, there are plenty of other places to relax!
Only a few problems remain… you have to wait your turn. No worry though, there are plenty of other places to relax!
Plenty of spaces for lounging
Plenty of spaces for lounging
Académie Fratellini’ School of Circus Arts practicing by the river
Académie Fratellini’ School of Circus Arts practicing by the river
Les Berges spans an area covered by six bridges, providing a bit of shade for the warmer days. We also experienced sound installations under some of them.
Les Berges spans an area covered by six bridges, providing a bit of shade for the warmer days. We also experienced sound installations under some of them.
Near Port de Solferino, you can rent one of these containers - either for dinner with friends, a short rest or to enjoy the varied garden spaces, inspired by Paris's most famous artists. Called 'ZZZ'- rest and relaxation are required, even in the heart of Paris!
Near Port de Solferino, you can rent one of these containers – either for dinner with friends, a short rest or to enjoy the varied garden spaces, inspired by Paris’s most famous artists. Called ‘ZZZ‘- rest and relaxation are required, even in the heart of Paris!
Temporary expo space: this one on hanging plants and urban green
Temporary expo space: this one on hanging plants and urban green
A portion of the walkway features various summer vegetables and herbs - well labelled and soon edible!
A portion of the walkway features summer vegetables and herbs – well labelled and edible!  Here we found tomatoes, raspberries, pumpkins, herbs, corn and much more!
Child's play all around
Child’s play all around
Roller sports park
Roller sports park
The Velib bike system can also be found along the pedestrian/ cycling zone, with many bicycles in use!
The Velib bike rental system, found throughout Paris, has several stations along the Les Berges pedestrian/ cycling zone, with many bicycles in use!
The Emmarchement in front of Musée d'Orsay
The Emmarchement in front of Musée d’Orsay
Art Expo space for travelling exhibitions, in front of Musée d'Orsay. This one was on coffee growers and traders.
Art Expo space for travelling exhibitions, in front of Musée d’Orsay. This one was on coffee growers and traders.
A little peace & quiet in a big city
A little peace & quiet in a big city
A well-deserved drink, relaxing on the River Seine
A well-deserved drink, relaxing on the River Seine
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2 thoughts on “Paris: reclaiming the city for cyclists & pedestrians – an update on Les Berges

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