Mayor Anne Hidalgo's plan to reclaim the Right Bank of the River Seine for pedestrians should come into fruition by the end of summer next year, she said on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, she said that the 3.3-kilometre stretch of the road that runs from the Quai des Tuileries in first arrondissement to the Port de L'Arsenal in the fourth would be “closed permanently” to traffic at the end of the summer.
A back-up option could see a shorter part of the road closed off instead, between Place du Chatelet and Pont de Sully.
The longer roadway, which currently serves up to 2,700 cars per hour in peak times, will become a 4.5-hectare hotspot for walkers and pétanque players, and will feature a floating marketplace thanks to boats moored along the river.
“This will profoundly change the face and image of our city,” she told the paper.
The tunnel at the western side of the road may even be transformed into a nightclub, she added.
In the tweet below, the mayor notes that the area will be a “new breathing place for walking and relaxing”.
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) October 19, 2015
Hidalgo also unveiled plans to introduce a tramway in 2020 along the Rue de Rivoli, a heavily trafficked shopping street parallel to the roadway further north. It will connect the east and west of Paris, she said.
The mayor noted that 57 percent of the public is in favour of the €8 million Right Bank plan, which was first announced in May this year, and which she plans to roll out directly after the annual Paris Plages event, where part of the river bank is turned into a temporary beach.
While further details are set to be discussed at a Paris council meeting in mid-November, the plan has already seen some opposition.
Motorist groups have noted that getting rid of the roadway could triple the times of short journeys across Paris, and could even see extra pollution and noise for local residents due to additional traffic congestion.
French drivers' organization 40 Million d'Automobilistes has even launched a petition against the plan.
Hidalgo swept away the groups' concerns, noting that while the decision “may seem radical, it's a public health issue”.
The mayor has long been an active supporter of cutting back on traffic in the French capital, most recently pulling off a “day without cars” in September, a move she has shown interest in implementing each month.
(Traffic on the Right Bank, Photo: AFP)
Opening up a river bank to walkers has already proved successful in Paris, after Hidalgo's predecessor Bertrand Delanoë closed the highway along the left bank has been deemed a success, even if it angered motorist groups.
The concept has also proved successful in Lyon and Bordeaux.