Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by C. Spahrbier

A Day Without Cars in Paris!

For the first time, Paris is to ban cars from the city centre on 27th September 2015 in a move to mark European Mobility Week 2015. The day will also be a build-up to the United Nations’ 21st Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP21, which the city is hosting from 30th November to 11th December 2015.

What the ‘Day Without Cars’ might look like on the main city routes of Paris. Image courtesy of www.paris.fr

What the ‘Day Without Cars’ might look like on the main city routes of Paris. Image courtesy of www.paris.fr

The ‘Day Without Cars’ is considered to be a brave undertaking, as Paris is very car dependent and has experienced some of the highest pollution levels in the world. Such levels are partially caused by the particularly high volume of cars commuting in and out of the capital each day. According to Paris City Hall, the move will be “a crazy gamble, but achievable”, and it is hoped that Parisians will feel the benefit through breathing cleaner air and seeing the beautiful sites of their city more clearly.

Carbon monoxide (CO), Particulate Matter (PM10) and toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the car pollutants of particular concern as they can have detrimental effects on health at high concentrations. In March 2015, severe measures had to be introduced after pollution levels reached critical point and toxic smog enveloped the city.

Only one in two cars were allowed into the city centre, public transport was made free of charge and cars using motorways were limited to travel at just 20km/hour. Main roads were policed in order to issue fines to anyone who broke the rules. As a result, traffic was reduced by around 40%. Similar measures have been taken previously due to the ongoing pollution problem.

Central Paris surrounded by a haze of smog. Image courtesy of http://julietinparis.net/

Central Paris surrounded by a haze of smog. Image courtesy of http://julietinparis.net/

It was around the time of the strict traffic measures that Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, announced that France’s capital city would go car-free for one day in September. Main routeways will be reserved for only pedestrians and cyclists between the hours of 11.00 and 18.00. Areas blocked to cars will include several main arrondissements (neighbourhoods), the Champs Élysées, the Left Bank, Place de Bastille and the Eiffel Tower zone, among others.

Recently, Stockholm, European Green Capital 2010, announced it would be going car-free for a day on September 19th for European Mobility Week. Brussels and its nineteen municipalities will also ban cars on 20th September for its annual ‘Car Free Sunday’, which will see a host of activities designed around mobility. Last year, Hamburg, European Green Capital 2011, declared that it intended to ban cars throughout much of the city by installing a ‘Green Network’ of public transport, pedestrian and cycling routes.

In December 2014, the Paris mayor announced plans to make semi-pedestrianised zones, double the number of bicycle lanes, ban diesel cars and preserve busy streets for electric cars and ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). This September, at least the ‘Day Without Cars’ will give citizens and visitors a flavour of what Paris would be like with less fumes, smog and traffic congestion.