On Wednesday, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced new plans for the French capital city’s ring road. The ‘périph’, as Parisians call it, will feature an ‘Olympic way’ during the 2024 Olympic Games, reserved for athletes, officials, and emergency services. After the event, that traffic lane will be deleted, and the 10 hectares ‘freed’ will see 70 000 trees grow.
While the périph is a municipal road, Mrs. Hidalgo needs validation from the State to modify traffic flow. Furthermore, in November 2021, a survey from the Regional Council showed that Île-de-France’s citizens rejected traffic lane suppression at 90,2%.
At first ‘Olympic way’
The story of the Paris ring road ‘périphérique’ is a complicated one. Built in 1973, the 35 km of tarmac has remained mostly unchanged. In 2018, the City of Paris, the Île-de-France regional council, the State, and the departments launched a consultation on infrastructure change.
On Wednesday, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the previously agreed-upon ‘Olympic way’ will see the light of day. During the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, one traffic lane of the ‘périph’ will be reserved for athletes, officials, and emergency services. However, it doesn’t end there. After the event, that traffic lane will continue to ban regular traffic as it will be reserved for buses, taxis, and carpooling.
‘From grey belt to green belt’
By 2030, the then previous ‘Olympic way’ should be deleted entirely, and in its place, Paris will plant 70 000 trees to “transform the grey belt into a green belt”, as Anne Hidalgo explained during a press conference. According to the mayor, this will take 80 000 cars off the road, and lower noise and pollution levels, which are six times over the WHO’s recommended levels.
In addition to reducing the ring road’s traffic lanes to two-times-three, entries to the city will also be upgraded to favor alternative mobility. The aim is for the ‘périph’ to stop being a fracture between the city and the suburbs.
Despite the green and positive future, the project is primarily contested. Back in 2021, a survey by the Regional Council showed that Île-de-France’s citizens rejected traffic lane suppression at 90,2%. For many, it’s the only road, and reducing traffic lanes will only increase traffic problems, they fear.
There is also a technicality issue, as the City of Paris owns the périphérique, but the State should first approve any infrastructural change. The opposition accuses Mrs. Hidalgo of going for it alone. “Not a single impact study has been included in the debate to analyze the consequences of such a decision for the people of Paris and Île-de-France,” states the LR opposition.