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Paris to Ban Through Traffic

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has set an audacious new benchmark in her ongoing campaign to reduce car use across the French capital: a ban on most vehicle traffic crossing the city center in 2022.

The plan would stop through traffic from a large zone covering Paris’ core, to cut pollution and noise and free up more space for trees, cycle lanes and pedestrian areas.

However, the new zone would not ban cars altogether and would still allow motorized access to the zone’s residents (including short-term hotel guests), to people with disabilities, and to vehicles used for public transit, deliveries or services. The new rules would nonetheless make it illegal to drive across the city centre without stopping. That would cover just over half of total traffic - more than 100,000 cars every day.

The plan comes after years during which Hidalgo’s administration has systematically sought to rein in automobile use. The city has already barred heavily polluting diesel cars from within the city’s beltway, pedestrianised the Seine quayside, reduced car access on many major streets and expanded green areas. After introducing further vehicle lane closures and bike paths during the pandemic, Hidalgo has remained adamant that the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the return to workplaces must not signal a return to a streetscape dominated by cars.

The car-calmed zone will be a new tool to fend off a post-pandemic car comeback within Paris’ innermost ring of boulevards, a zone of around 14 square kilometers (5.4 square miles).

Earlier this year, Hidalgo gave the go-ahead to a £225 million makeover of the Champs-Élysées. The 1.2-mile (1.9km) stretch in the heart of the city will become an “extraordinary garden”.

Hidalgo’s progressive environmental and transportation policies have not always made her time in the public eye easy, but she has largely escaped political consequences for any pushback against them. Having been re-elected at the head of a left-leaning coalition that includes the French Green Party in June 2020, her administration in a fairly strong position to implement sweeping change. While this latest ban stands to mark a new milestone in the city’s car-free agenda, it’s unlikely to be the last.



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