Paris: Where Have All The Cars Gone?

Under Mayor Hidalgo, Paris has done as much as any city in the world to wage a war on cars amid a growing awareness of the damaging impact they have on cities, and the health and quality of life of the residents of Paris.

Paris, with the Eiffel tower in the distance

Cars emit huge amounts of pollution and are an inefficient use of finite public space. They are Europe’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and the leading killer of children. Copenhagen calculates that for each km cycled by a resident, society reaps a benefit of €0.64 ($0.64), whereas each km driven costs €0.71 in negative impact on health, safety and the environment.

Over recent years, Paris has implemented an array of measures to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and transit while bringing car use to a grinding halt. In addition to pedestrianizing the Seine’s quayside, the French capital has banned heavily polluting diesel cars through the creation of a low-emission zone (which will become progressively more stringent from now until 2030), reduced drivers’ access to major streets, expanded green areas (with lots more still to come), and promoted other ways getting around the city.

As a result, the proportion of journeys by car in Paris has dropped about a whopping 45 percent since 1990, according to a paper published by the journal Les Cahiers Scientifiques du Transport. At the same time, the use of public transit has risen by 30 percent and the share of cyclists has increased tenfold.

The latest projects in Paris include enforcing a new citywide speed limit of 30km per hour and establishing car-free zones outside schools. One of the most radical new measures is a “peaceful zone,” set to launch in 2024, that will make it illegal to drive across the city center without stopping (albeit with exceptions for various groups of drivers), effectively banning cars that aren’t absolutely essential - a policy the city estimates could cut through-journeys by up to 70 percent.

Where Paris leads, others will surely follow.


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