On Sunday, 27 September, Paris will be a car-free zone. Not just one little road like the lovely Rue Cremieux, or even a big one like the Champs-Élysées, but great bustling swathes of the city.
Between the hours of 1100 to 1800 on Sunday, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th arrondissements — the very heart of the city — will be strictly car-free. A smattering of small areas away from the center, including the Left Bank between the Pont de Sully and the Pont de la Concorde bridges, the Champs-Élysées between Place de la Concorde and the George V Métro station) and the tourist area of Montmartre will also be part of the motor-free festivities.
Elsewhere in the city, cars will be "tolerated" with a poodling speed limit of 20kph (12mph). Naturally, some exceptions exist, including taxis, emergency vehicles and delivery trucks.
The event comes after a vigorous lobbying from a citizens collective called Paris Sans Voiture (Paris Without Cars). The group — "made up of scientists and high-profile individuals, residents aged 7 to 89 years old" — sent a proposal for a pedestrian-and-cyclist-only day to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo back in August 2014, citing the success of the annual Car-free Sunday in Brussels, which dates to 2008. Hidalgo was impressed, and subsequent meetings with the city's head of transport went well, to no one's surprise: Christophe Najdovski is a proven proponent of a cyclist-friendly Paris, presently pushing an ambitious plan to stretch cycle lanes from 700km to 1,400km by 2020. The Paris police were more difficult to convince, and the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in January 2015 complicated the discussion. But on 5 March, the decision was made and a triumphant Hidalgo tweeted: "Une journée sans voiture à Paris le 27 septembre." (“A car-free day in Paris on 27 September.”)
The city has planned a vast schedule of pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly live events, but rest assured, this is more than a feel-good street festival for Paris. Back in March, the city briefly became the world's most polluted city, and undoing that bad press has become a top priority for the mayor's office. Hildago expressed frustration with the French government for limiting the car-free event's geographic scope. "I would, of course, have preferred a more ambitious event to respect the democratic will of the Parisians to go faster and further in the fight against pollution."
There's always next year.
For more information in the 2015 Journée Sans Voiture, including a larger version of the map above, click here.
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