Paris: Imagine any big city anywhere in the world without traffic just for a day. Now, if that city were Paris, imagine further the photographic possibilities, not to mention the visual, auditory and olfactory potential.
Imagine no more because on September 27th, that’s just what Paris is going to do:“Une Journée Sans Voiture”– A Day Without Car, for the first time in the city’s history.
City Hall calls it “a crazy gamble, but achievable.” No motorized vehicle, with a few exceptions like ambulances, will be allowed to drive the streets. As Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced in March: “Paris will be completely transformed for a day. This is an opportunity for Parisians and tourists to enjoy the city without noise, pollution and therefore without stress.”
According to the city’s program for the day “All the most popular tourist spots, usually crowded, will be fully dedicated to pedestrians who will be able to discover a new Paris.”
The areas without traffic include the 1st, 2nd, 3th, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 10thand 11th arrondissements (neighborhoods), the ChampsÉlysées, Place Stalingrad, Place de la Republique, the Left Bank, the Place de la Bastille, the area around the Eiffel Tower and the Bois de Vincennes and Boulogne.
TheDay Without Car is part of the city’s campaign against pollution and is in line with the European Mobility Week that will take place in Paris from September 16 to 22 as well as the major United Nations conference on the climate (COP 21) also in Paris in late November.
“Our city has to establish an exemplary signal responding to global issues,” the non-profit environmental group Paris Sans Voiture says, supporting the initiative. “But it also has to respond to local issues after record peaks of pollution and climate challenges that are more than ever at the heart of everyday life. The car-free day, by its magnitude, will also leave a lasting mark on the collective imagination: Everyone can project a city more livable, adopt sustainable behaviors, particularly in terms of mobility and the sharing of public spaces.”
According with the WorldHealth Organization, air pollution is the main health risk posed to the environment in the world’s large cities. A recent report by the French Senate estimated that pollution costs France more than €100 billion each year.
Of course, Paris has loads of company. Traffic in London moves slower than a horse-drawn carriage and English drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking. Commuters in Los Angeles fritter away 90 hours a year in traffic, according to FastCompany.
“Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their cars parked at home and take the train instead,” the magazine reported.
Other cities including Montreal, Bogota, Mexico City, Ho Chi Minh City and Brussels have instituted Day Without Car programs, some of them permanently and some partially, closing certain streets and encouraging bike riding.