‘Fight against the car’ gets Paris mayor Hidalgo re-elected
The socialist Anne Hidalgo is re-elected mayor of Paris, but for a long time, it seemed that she wouldn’t get a second term. Her fight against the car in the French capital was the spearhead of her campaign.
But around the turn of the year, a strike erupted against President Macron’s pension reform plans. Public transport in the capital didn’t run for 46 days. Tormented by traffic jams, Parisians took to their bikes. The coronavirus kept people cycling.
Bicycle path explosion
While cars stayed away during the corona crisis, cyclists conquered the city. Hidalgo acted fast. In just a few days, local authorities built 50 kilometers of new bicycle lanes. Some streets became completely car-free until further notice. That cycling revolution gave Hidalgo’s plans a boost.
She had already banned the most polluting cars from the city. From 2024, all diesel cars and by 2030 also the gasoline engines won’t be welcome in Paris anymore. Hidalgo wants many of the streets that were bicycle streets during the corona crisis to remain permanently traffic-free.
She promises €350 million for ‘a cycle path in every street’. To do so, Hidalgo wants to sacrifice 60.000 parking spaces. To serve commuters who prefer to avoid public transport, the region is planning 650 kilometers of new cycle paths along the axes of the major metro lines.
The plan to ban cars fits into the broader concept of the ’15-minute city’. The idea is that the city dweller will find all essential functions within 15 minutes of walking or cycling. To achieve this, the traditional division of the city into zones for living, working, shopping, or relaxing has to be done.
The ‘deconstruction of the city’, says Carlos Moreno, professor at the Sorbonne and driving force behind the story. Moreno likes to talk about the ‘lively smart city’, compact, and where people know each other.
Worldwide, city planners consider proximity to be the key to workable urban climate policy, more social cohesion, and a thriving local business community.
The 20 Parisian districts are a good starting point. Nevertheless, it will be a challenge to implement the concept in a metropolis of 2.2 million inhabitants.
Not everyone is happy with the plans. Cozy green neighborhoods are driving up house prices. Paris is almost unaffordable for the ordinary mortal.
While the settled Parisians seem to like the concept, the frustration grows in the suburbs and the banlieues, who regard the capital as an elitist and unattainable bastion.
Pierre Chasseray, chairman of an association of forty million motorists, speaks of ‘social segregation’ and ‘polarisation’ between cyclists and motorists. But no matter how much resistance, Hidalgo did not suffer much. The inhabitants of the suburbs do not have the right to vote in Paris.