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Paris to take breath of fresh air with car-free Sunday

© Patrick Kovarik, AFP | A long exposure picture taken on September 1, 2015 shows the Place de l'Etoile without road traffic

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-09-27

Central Paris goes car-free on Sunday in the latest effort by local authorities to tackle the city’s alarming pollution levels.

The French capital's central arrondissements and areas around landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysées will be free from car noise and exhaust fumes, allowing people to stroll, cycle or skate between 11am and 6pm local time.

Exceptions are allowed for taxis, buses and emergency vehicles. Paris has occasionally closed selected roads to traffic in the past, but not as large an area as will be covered on Sunday.

Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, who late this year will host the United Nations World Climate Conference, told the daily Le Parisien that the goal was to show that "Paris can operate without cars".

When the Eiffel Tower disappeared in smog last March, the city offered free rides on subways and buses and free use of the city’s bike-sharing scheme Vélib’ and the Autolib’ electric cars.

Hidalgo has also imposed alternating traffic orders, effectively banning one in two vehicles for short periods during pollution spikes.

Last December, she proposed to ban by 2020 any diesel vehicles built before 2011.

France has the highest percentage of diesel cars on the road in Europe. They have been popular as successive governments have subsidised the fuel, making it cheaper than gasoline.

While carmakers argue that diesel vehicles account for only a fraction of the pollutants in the air, experts retort that health risks are far greater because cities are where most cars are to be found and where most people live and breathe.

The Paris event is not a first in Europe. Inspired by similar events elsewhere, notably the annual car-free Sunday in Brussels, a citizens' group called "Paris Sans Voiture" (Paris Without Cars) proposed the idea to Hidalgo who endorsed it.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2015-09-26

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