When Paris Eliminates Cars, Will Other Cities Follow Suit?

Paris has been making headlines for years with its aggressive steps to anti-car, pro-pedestrian urban improvements. Faced with increasing issues around air pollution and an attempt to reclaim streets for alternate modes of transit, as outlined in their proposed plan for a 15-minute city, the French capital is seen as a leader in future-forward urbanist strategies. Recently, their department of transportation set a deadline for their lofty goals of eliminating traffic from its roads. In just two years from now, in time for the French capital to host the Olympics, Paris plans to ban non-essential traffic from its city center, effectively eliminating around 50% of vehicular mobility. What does this plan look like? And how might other cities use this strategy to eliminate their own urban issues?

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Proposed area of banned through transit. Image via City of Paris

The logistics of this plan are rather complicated. While the goals are to make the city less congested and cleaner, some drivers will still be allowed into the zone, which covers nearly 5.5 square miles (14 square kilometers) and both sides of the Seine. Effectively, it bans drivers who are just passing through the zone and allows private cars that are entering the zone as a destination and public transit vehicles. Drivers who are caught using the zone to just pass through will face a fine from the police. It’s estimated that it will eliminate around 100,000 cars daily.

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© Statista- data via Airparif

While the plan was expected to be implemented this year, it has been delayed to allow time for public feedback and input. In traffic studies conducted by Parisian officials, using this zone as a thorough cause significant traffic congestion and emissions- nearly half of the city’s in total. Re-routing these transit routes, it will make these streets much more pedestrian-friendly and also might deter people from using private cars in favor of public transportation instead. In 2017, Paris banned cars from driving along a two-mile stretch along the Seine to create walkable stretches of road. The immediate result was that other streets became busier, and traffic jams actually increased.

Some worry that fewer cars will mean less business for local shops and restaurant owners, but the hope is that because traffic deters so many people, less traffic will actually bring people back into the area and recreate this part of Paris to be more of a destination than a thoroughfare. This strategy is also being replicated in other cities around the globe, at different scales, so there are many lessons to be learned. Almost immediately after Paris announced the delay in this plan, Brussels announced a similar motion of banning cars within the historic center of the city. There have already been attempts to pedestrianize this area, with new sidewalks, cafe seats, and flower planters lining the streets, but will take it one step further to completely eliminate through traffic.

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Smog in Paris (2016). Image via France24

Madrid also announced a similar measure, banning personal cars from the Spanish capital in an effort to redesign many of the streets into pedestrian-only areas. Only modes of public transportation, bikes, and taxis can enter the city center as a means of creating a more sustainable future. While the movement was struck down in their supreme court due to procedural errors, there's still hope to revise the strategy and have it implemented in the future On a much smaller scale, the iconic Times Square in New York City gave up several major streets to a pedestrian plaza that better holds the millions of visitors who visit the site every year. The acclaimed success of the project influenced city leaders to develop a toolkit for how to shut down other streets, especially portions of Broadway, and make New York City more walkable.

It will be several years before we can determine if Paris, and other cities that plan to follow suit, see success in closing streets to through traffic. Overall, it’s one major step towards improving life in major cities, but more work on sustainable strategies and more access to other types of mass transit will be needed to complement the elimination of cars.

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Cite: Kaley Overstreet. "When Paris Eliminates Cars, Will Other Cities Follow Suit?" 22 Mar 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/978811/when-paris-eliminates-cars-will-other-cities-follow-suit> ISSN 0719-8884

Arc de Triomphe Round About. Image © Rodrigo Kugnharski via Unsplash


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