Cars that ate Paris are given the boot

By H.Samuel  in the Sydney Morning Herald 17-18 April 2010 out of the Telegraph, London

Roads along the Seine are to be closed after 43 years in an attempt to return the backs to their ” former beauty”.

The roads were built by Georges Pompidou as part of his great “expressway program”. Up to 70000 cars a day travel along the Seine’s left bank on what is known as the Pompidou expressway, a dual carriage way along the right bank built in ‘67. Pompidou was an arid motorist who once declared : “The French love their cars.”

The banks have been UNESCO World Heritage site since ‘92. Delanoe, the mayor of Paris who introduced Paris-Plage when the banks become a temporary beach every summer, said that removing cars from sections of the riverbank would help cut pollution and boost the capital’s international standing. He declared war on the “unacceptable hegemony” of cars, introducing new trams, bike and bus lanes and the Velib cycle rental scheme since 2001.The move have been welcomed by most non-motorists but car- and taxidrivers have complained that congestion has become intolerable.

Undeterred, he planned to pedestrianise a 2 Km stretch on the left bank from Orsay to Pont de l’Alma near the Eiffel Tower by 2012. There are also plans to include steps down to the water, as well as gardens ,walkways, green “islets” and a botanic garden.

To avoid gridlocks, cars will not be totally banned from the right bank, but the expressway will become a boulevard with traffic lights and bike and pedestrian areas.

“The idea is to transform an urban autoroute into a living space with areas where there will be no cars” said Delanoe.

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