Paris Bans All Cars For a Day in September
The city of Paris is trying an interesting experiment next month. ‘Une Journée Sans Voiture’ translates to ‘A Day Without a Car,’ and on September 27th Paris will prohibit all motorized vehicles from taking to the streets. With roots that stretch back to the third century B.C., it’s a chance for residents and tourists to see the city as it was before the arrival of the automobile.
“Paris will be completely transformed for a day,” explained Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in March. “This is an opportunity for Parisians and tourists to enjoy the city without noise, pollution and therefore without stress.” Une Journée Sans Voiture coincides with European Mobility Week and a United Nations climate change summit, both of which will also be in Paris.
Restricted areas will include the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, 10th and 11th arrondissements (neighborhoods) and popular landmarks like the Champs Élysées, the Eiffel Tower, Place Stalingrad, Place de la Republique, Place Bastille and the Bois de Vincennes and Boulogne. Of course, exceptions will be made for ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles, but other than that, commuters and tourists will have to hoof it or take the Paris Metro.
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Why it matters
Paris isn’t the first city, or even the largest, to have an official Car Free Day. Jakarta, Mexico City, Ho Chi Minh City and Brussels have done the same in recent years. Here in the United States, the city of Portland, Oregon, which is known as a very cyclist-friendly city, has organized car-free weekends in certain parts of town as well.
The idea of car-free days is a great idea for some cities but terrible for others. Cities built before the automobile, like Paris, New York and London, lend themselves better to foot traffic. In fact, plenty of people that live in these densely populated cities see car ownership as a hindrance because of the horrible traffic and high parking costs.
But trying it in a car-dependent city like Los Angeles would be nothing short of a disaster. The 405 would be clear for the first time in history, but the entire city would collapse if residents weren’t able to get to the Starbucks drive-through windows. Los Angeles has managed to reduce cancer-causing agents in its air by 65 percent in the last 10 years, but that change had more to do with clean-vehicle technology than preventing anyone from driving for a day.