Transportation

Just Passing Through

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 14, 2005

If Mayor Bertrand Delanoe gets his way, a five kilometre square area of the Right Bank north of the River Seine in Paris will be car-free by 2012. Closed to all but residents, buses, delivery vans and emergency vehicles, the car-free zone will be the culmination of Delanoe's plan to make Paris as pedestrian-friendly as possible.

According to traffic studies, half the cars in downtown Paris are just passing through, and the mayor wants to eliminate this transient traffic from the core. With a compact, pedestrian friendly design and a world-renowned subway system, Paris is much easier to reach without a car.

Paris has already expanded pedestrian spaces, including sidewalks and green space ("quartiers vertes"), added bike lanes and bus-only lanes, reduced parking downtown, begun work on a boulevard tramway, and taken steps to reduce the speed limit to 30 km/h.

This has produced some spectacular jams, but Delanoe enjoys the support of 80 percent of the city's residents.

In case you thought shameless car apologists exist only in North America, the president of the National Automobile Club Fédération has decried the car-free plan, saying it "will make Paris a ghetto, cutting it off from the suburbs. The car is indispensible for the cultural and economic activity" of the city.

Proposed car free districts in Paris (Credit: British Broadcasting Corporation)
Proposed car free districts in Paris (Credit: British Broadcasting Corporation)

The consultants that helped develop the plan for Paris have also developed a car-limiting plan for London, England, which has decided to address the traffic problem via tolls rather than outright closures. Delanoe calls tolls "elitist" but supports London's efforts to reduce the number of cars on the roads.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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