All visitors to Paris have a take on the Arc de Triomphe. One of France’s most famous and instantly recognisable icons is a lot of things to a lot of people—it’s obviously the monument to remember all those who died in the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars, home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War One, or it’s where the cyclists pass as they tear down the Champs-Élysées to win the Tour de France.
It’s also a legendary traffic hotspot, where 12 major roads converge (including the famous Champs-Élysées) into 12 lanes of traffic, often congested, and where priority is theoretically always from the right. And that too is a huge part of Paris’ culture and experience.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is instigating a process of greening Paris and announced Wednesday, her plans to green the périphérique (the ring road or beltway that circles Paris)—another road that is famously congested and polluted.
This would be in conjunction with her other plans to turn large chunks of the capital into pedestrian green highways, including to reduce the traffic lanes at the Arc de Triomphe to provide a pedestrian walkway around the famous landmark.
Before the pandemic, Hidalgo had permanently closed two major roads along the side of the river Seine and created extensive cycling and pedestrian infrastructure–moves which were extended even further during the lockdown. Paris also gave the go-ahead to the world’s largest urban rooftop farm.
When the pandemic started, as in many cities around the world, Hidalgo allowed more cafes, restaurants and bars to use Parisian sidewalks for eating and drinking so that they could stay open and still respect social distancing. These licenses have been continued too.
Hidalgo announced her plans in 2021 to turn much of Paris’ famous thoroughfares into green highways and green pedestrian routes in time for the Olympic Games in 2024—the opening night is 24 July.
Over 1.1 million car journeys take place along the eight lanes of the périphérique every day (four in each direction) and Hidalgo wants to turn one lane into an Olympic-travel-only for carpools etc. during the Games—afterwards she wants to then plant trees and allow cyclists to use the lane in the place of cars (and hopefully removing 80,000 car journeys each day). Hidalgo has said, “revegetation is an extraordinary and fabulous lever for transforming this entire territory.”
Hidalgo hopes to turn the backlash that she has received (from shopkeepers, businesses, truck drivers and delivery vans) around and get the go-ahead from Parisian citizens to remove a lane from the ring road.
Euronews suggests that locals are more supportive of greening the Champs-Elysées due to the expected decrease in pollution levels.