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Paris bars cars from the river Seine’s banks

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-04-15

By making a central chunk of the banks of the river Seine pedestrian only, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë hopes to make the culturally rich city centre a more pleasant place to stroll for pedestrians, tourists and “all Paris lovers”.

Paris’s socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë has unveiled plans to close a section of the banks of the river Seine to cars as part of an effort to “give Parisians back their river”, drawing praise from environmental groups and pedestrians but sparking anger from frequent drivers.

The mayor aims to turn what is currently an automobile expressway – the most direct route crossing Paris from east to west – into a greener, more leisure-oriented zone.

A central section of the Seine’s left bank, between the Solferino and Alma bridges, will be entirely closed to cars and equipped with new installations such as volleyball courts, sundecks, outdoor cafés and floating gardens. Other parts of the Seine’s banks will remain open to traffic but will be intersected by a greater number of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.

The changes mainly affect the banks in the culturally rich city centre, which have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site and attract thousands of tourists each year. Since 2002, Delanoë has been experimenting with closing parts of the Seine’s banks and covering them with sand and beach chairs in a project dubbed “Paris Plage”. The widely popular project was copied and adapted by several other European cities.

The pedestrian-only plan will affect a total of 15 hectares, including 4.5 on the banks of the Seine, in an area where an estimated 40 000 vehicles pass each day, and up to 4,000 per hour during rush hours. The mayor’s office claims that it will take an average of six minutes longer to cross the city centre by car due to the changes, but drivers fear greater disruptions.

“This is a big mistake” one irate Parisian driver told local paper Le Parisien. “The Seine expressways help relieve the heavy traffic in the city centre. Without them, driving through Paris will become a nightmare.”

The move has drawn praise from some quarters, however, including France’s Green party. In a statement released on Wednesday, it hailed the plan as a “big step to make the Seine a greener, more pleasant central artery for Parisians.”
 

Date created : 2010-04-15

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