One of Paris’s most iconic features is set to get a makeover, clearing the way for more joggers and bicyclists and eliminating car traffic altogether.
CityLab reports that the banks of the Seine will be car-free by the summer of next year. Cars are already banned on a good portion of its left bank, but the right bank will soon follow suit, according to Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
The Seine in central Paris is unique in that it has two levels on each bank. One level is above the river, on street level along with the rest of the city. The other level is down on the river itself, separated from the city’s buildings by a giant wall. Under Hidalgo’s proposal, the lower level on the Seine’s right bank will be clear of roads by next year.
Hidalgo announced this measure after a series of promises regarding car usage in the city. She has proposed to cut gas use, lower speed limits, and ban environmentally unfriendly cars from central Paris. She deemed the plan to be “an urban, almost philosophical project, which consists of seeing the city in another way than through the use of cars.”
With the roads gone, the lower level will be able to include wider promenades, more space for trees and playgrounds, and sports facilities. Up to two miles will be converted into green space, adding up to 1.4 acres of new parks and reducing the level of pollution wrought by the cars. Hidalgo said the project will cost a modest €8 million (or $9 million USD).
The change comes after Parisians have come to look down upon the bank (no pun intended). Before the 1960s, the banks were iconic locations of the city where barges would offload their cargo. Then in the 1960s, Paris decided to open up the lower level for cars in order to improve, and encourage, traffic to the city.
Since then, many Parisians have been disenchanted with the roadways. They increased air pollution and weren’t quite a romantic image on the Seine. So, starting in 2002, the city closed down sections of the banks for cars. The left bank is already void of cars, and by next year the entire Seine in central Paris will no longer have noisy traffic on its lower banks.
Since the left bank was closed to cars in 2013, the Seine saw more than four million visitors as well as a 15% drop in nitrous oxide pollution. Paris itself saw more than 47 million tourists in 2013.