Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has named 2017 the year of the bike as she pledges to fast forward a doubling of the length of the city’s bike lanes by 2020, and halve motor traffic while pedestrianising a historic part of the city centre this year.
Responding to the growing problem of air pollution, particularly diesel vehicles, which briefly made Paris the world’s most polluted city early last year, Hidalgo says there are too many cars in Paris, announcing among measures to cut fumes a new 4km bike lane along the Rue de Rivoli, one of the city’s most famous streets, halving the space for motor traffic on that route.
Rue de Rivoli, a key East-West route connecting the Place de la Bastille and the Place de la Concorde, and linking the Louvre, Palais Royal and the Marais, will see increased space for walking, cycling and shopping. Private motor cars will also be banned from the Place du Carrousel du Louvre, outside the world’s most visited museum, with around 9 million visits per year.
"Climate is the number one priority. Less cars means less pollution. 2017 will be the year of the bicycle," Reuters reports Hidalgo saying.
“The deluge is imminent and we cannot wait for it to sweep us all away … there are too many cars in Paris,” she said on Friday.
Most of the city’s historical Marais district will be pedestrianised this year, with motor traffic banned, aside from public transport, local businesses and residents. From 2018 the city will also operate a “tram bus” along the right bank of the Seine, as part of its bid to host the 2024 Olympics.
Hidalgo is quoted by the Guardian saying: “The pedestrianisation of the city centre is starting … the idea is to go step by step towards the pedestrianisation of the city centre. It will remain open to vehicles belonging to local residents, the police, emergency services and for deliveries, but not to all comers.
“We say clearly that our aim is the significant reduction in car traffic, as all the world’s large cities are doing. We must constantly remind people: the fewer cars there are, the less pollution there is.”
Last year Paris experienced a number of dangerous spikes in air pollution, briefly in March 2016 making the city the world’s most polluted, and again in December. After motor traffic free days saw dramatic improvements in air quality, Mayor Hidalgo pledged to implement more car free days and, last year, Paris was one of four cities worldwide which pledged to ban diesel vehicles from its city centre.
Deputy Mayor for Transport, Christophe Najdovski, said other cities, including Bordeaux and Lyon, are ahead of Paris in terms of restricting polluting diesel vehicles and opening up the city’s riverbanks.
Last year Hidalgo turned a stretch of busy expressway along the river Seine into a pedestrian zone for a six month trial, a move which many hope will become permanent, but which has divided Parisians and angered motoring groups.
Since the introduction of the city’s Velib bicycle sharing scheme in July 2007 motor traffic has fallen by 30 per cent.
“Faced with the scourge of pollution, I assume my responsibility,” said Hidalgo.