Strolling Along the Seine Just Got Better for Paris Pedestrians
Where cars once sped through Paris, sunbathers, rollerbladers, and casual readers can now lounge along a stretch of the Seine River.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo inaugurated the two-mile-long park on the right bank of the river over the weekend, local news outlets reported. The opening of the pedestrian area is part of the mayor's efforts to decrease pollution in the city.
"We've dreamed of this moment for 15 years – but now pedestrians and the children can have this magnificent walkway," Hidalgo said during her address at the inauguration.
Paris has long struggled with intense pollution as a result of a high concentration of cars as well as the prevalence of diesel vehicles. The levels of pollution exceeded the safe breathing limit several times last year, and the city made public transportation temporarily free as an incentive to forego motor vehicles.
Some auto groups, civilians, and politicians alike have opposed the plan to close car and motorcycle traffic along this stretch of central Paris, saying it will increase traffic in an already congested city.
The area has been closed to auto traffic since October 2016, and some 168 mayors from the surrounding Paris area signed an open letter asking the mayor to reopen it to car traffic and ditch plans for the park, local newspaperLe Figaro reported.
“The worsening of congestion is leading to a deterioration of the daily life of the tens of thousands of Paris-area residents that ask for nothing more than the ability to take part in their professional lives, sometimes already an hour’s drive from their homes,” wrote the mayors in the letter, printed by Le Figaro.
Hidalgo pushed ahead with her plan, however, insisting that the measure is a necessity for the city and its residents. This park is just one of many proposals she has put forth in an effort to pedestrianize the city.
"We aren't anti-cars, we're anti-pollution. Long live life, long live Paris, and long live fresh air," the mayor said at the unveiling.