Paris to revamp main squares to make way for bikes, pedestrians

PARIS — Paris authorities on Tuesday approved a plan to give seven major squares in the French capital a massive makeover to make way for pedestrians, cyclists and more greenery.

Paris boasts numerous vast squares, with beautiful structures in their center, such as the July Column on the Place de la Bastille — a symbol of the French Revolution — the Pantheon mausoleum or Madeleine church.

However, pedestrians often have to get through several lanes of snarled traffic, while a lack of cycling lanes makes crossing the squares a nightmare for those on bikes.

PEOPLE RIDE bicycles at Place de la Bastille during the “Car-Free Day” in Paris on Sept. 27, 2015 as part of the French capital’s lead-up to hosting the 21st Conference of Parties, an international climate conference, in December. — AFP

Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s plan aims to make “cyclists and pedestrians the priority,” with 50% more space dedicated to those not behind a steering wheel.

Drinking fountains and more greenery are also in store for the revamped squares — an election promise made by the Socialist mayor.

The environmentally minded mayor has taken several initiatives to green up the French capital, where pollution has become a major problem.

Last March, French authorities briefly forced half the cars off the roads of Paris under an even-and-odd licence plate scheme used during dangerously high smog episodes.

Ms. Hidalgo also announced in January that the famed Champs-Elysees avenue would from April be closed to traffic one Sunday a month and that one in two Parisian parks would be open 24 hours a day.

The World Health Organization says fine-particle air pollution is responsible for about 42,000 premature deaths in France each year. — AFP

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