May 24, 2010

Reclaiming the Banks of the Seine

Port de Solferino - left bank © Apur / JC Chobelet

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë - who introduced Paris-Plages, when the banks of the Seine become a temporary beach every summer - said that removing cars all year round from sections of the riverbank would help cut pollution and boost the capital's international standing.
Up to 70,000 cars travel daily along the Seine's left bank and what is known as the Pompidou expressway – a dual carriageway along the right bank built in 1967 by Mr Pompidou , an avid motorist who declared: "The French love their cars". The banks have been UNESCO world heritage sites since 1992.

Port des Invalides / Concorde - left bank © Apur / JC Chobelet
But Mr Delanoë has declared war on the "unacceptable hegemony of the automobile", introducing new trams, bike and bus lanes and the popular Vélib' cycle rental scheme since first taking up office 2001. While the moves have been welcomed by most non-motorists, car and taxi drivers complain that congestion has become intolerable.

Undeterred, the mayor said he intended to completely pedestrianise a 1.2 mile stretch of road on the Left Bank from the Orsay museum to the Pont de l'Alma near the Eiffel Tower by 2012. There are plans to include huge steps down to the water, as well as gardens, walkways, green "islets" and a barge containing a botanical garden.
Port Célestins - right bank  © Apur / JC Chobelet 
To avoid total gridlock, however, cars will not be totally banned from the Right Bank but the expressway will be shrunk into 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 the mayor.
"It is quite extraordinary, for if we succeed in this ambition, I think Paris will change profoundly," he said, adding that it would "give Paris an opportunity for happiness".
Pont de l'Alma, link to the Eiffel Tower - left bank © Apur / JC Chobelet
The proposed change however has angered some motorists who believe it will cause traffic chaos in the French capital.
"It's completely stupid," said Bruno, 45, who takes the expressway every day. "The fast lanes serve to unblock central Paris. You only have to look at what happens when they shut the banks for Paris-Plages: up above, nobody can move.
The Right-wing opposition warned that the project would be a disaster unless a global approach to traffic in Paris was not applied.
"Today, the mayor is moving towards shutting certain traffic lanes without even envisaging alternative solutions," warned UMP-Paris.
The 40-million euro (£35 million) plans will be debated by the town council in June and must be approved by Paris' police chief.
Port du gros caillou © Apur / JC Chobelet
Port de l'Hôtel De Ville - Right Bank © Apur / JC Chobelet 

Liaison Tuileries-Musée d'Orsay © Apur / JC Chobelet 

Footbridge / Palais de Tokyo - Right Bank © Apur / JC Chobelet  
Alexandre III Bridge - left bank © Apur / JC Chobelet
Via The Telelgragh
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