This past Sunday, the city of Paris experimented with an entirely car-free day in an effort to help raise awareness about air pollution. From 11a.m. to 6p.m., only buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles were allowed on the streets, making it perfect for people to explore on foot or by bicycle. This is not the first time something like this has been attempted, but it is the first time an entire city has participated, which amounted to a whopping 40 square miles. Officials were serious about enforcing the ban too, so if people were caught driving during the mandated hours without a good reason (ie an emergency), they were subject to steep fines and a citation.
This day was mainly created as an educational experiment, so that locals could see what life without a congested city center could potentially be like. It also helped force people into trying out alternate modes of transportation which helps cut down on air pollution if more commonly utilized. The current mayor, Anne Hidalgo, was elected in large part due to her promise to cut down on traffic and curb air pollution in the city, both significant issues for the City of Lights. This trial day without cars is just one of the many things Mayor Hidalgo has in the works to help with these problems plaguing Paris. She also intends to widen bike lanes and increase the number of bus lanes, making it more appealing and easier to regularly use other modes of transport.
Of course, this is not a popular event all across the board, with pro-car lobby groups and avid motorists pushing back, saying that the car ban is propaganda, made to cast all vehicles in a negative light. It also amounted to a headache for those participating in Fashion Week, because they are so reliant on large trucks to bring in extravagant decorations for the larger than life displays common at this event. Fashion houses, such as Valentino, also made it a point to send out reminder e-mails to those attending to make alternate transportation arrangements in order to reach shows occurring during the ban.
Despite these minor setbacks and opposition, the general consensus is that a car ban, or at the very least, a great reduction in the current traffic congestion in the city would be a positive change. Local Parisian, Maxime Denis, was quoted as saying, “It's nice for the air quality, for enjoying the city, walking around without any noise, without any risk to be run over by a car.” The French capital is notorious for having high vehicle emissions, so anything that can help reduce these pollutants would be welcomed as long as it had no negative impact on day-to-day life for most locals. Although, it's probably not feasible to introduce a long-term car ban, it is certainly a great way to generate awareness and help show the potential of less cars on the road.