Plan to conquer Paris ring road for bikes and pedestrians

A plan has been put forward to conquer the peripherique ring road around Paris and hand it over to cyclists and pedestrians, or at least give them a share of it.

Plan to conquer Paris ring road for bikes and pedestrians
Photo: AFP

The notoriously polluted ring road could be transformed into a bike- and pedestrian-friendly zone by 2030, after the Paris Council opened a debate on a greener future for the périphérique on Monday.

A commitment was adopted urging the Paris Town Hall to put pressure on the government to decommission the périphérique from the national road network. The idea is the brainchild of the ecologist group Europe écologie les verts (EELV).

A debate will be organised on the subject at the Paris Council by the end of 2017. 

If eventually accepted, the project would transform urban landscape of Paris.

The périphérique would become a Parisian boulevard with a speed limit of 50 km/h, as opposed to the current 70 km/h. Lorry drivers might lose their right to use the road, while cyclists and pedestrians would gain greater access.

'Symbolic and physical divide'

In a communiqué published on their Paris website, the EELV highlighted their commitment to tackling the ‘symbolic and physical divide between Paris and its surrounding towns’ and said that the ring road could become ‘a place of meetings and activities’ with green spaces and shops. 

They added that the transformation could only happen slowly and in line with the development of public transport projects, notably the Grand Paris Express, a group of four rapid automatic metro lines projected to fully open in 2030.

The project would also fight the noise and air pollution that are a blight on surrounding areas. A whopping 1.2 million vehicles use the ring road every day.

Green policies have been gaining traction in a city marred by high pollution levels. 

A recent study from the French Health Department found that 2,441 people die a year from air pollution in Paris, with a further 4,166 dying from it in the outer suburbs of the city.  

In a bid to tackle the problem, the city recently cracked down on high-polluting old cars (registered before January 1997). They are now banned from being driven anywhere inside the Périphérique from 8am to 8pm each weekday.

Cars older than ten years are thought to cause half of the city's air pollution.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo also plans to transform part of the right bank of the River Seine into a car-free zone, just as her predecessor Bertrand Delanoë did on the left bank.

Hidalgo has also introduced an annual car free day in Paris, which has seen roads blocked off to cars and reserved for cyclists and pedestrians.

And on the first Sunday of every month the famous Champs Elysée avenue goes car-free for the day.

by Imogen Wallace

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Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire

Paris authorities have been accused of failing to safeguard the health of people living near Notre-Dame cathedral due to lead pollution from a devastating fire two years ago.

Paris faces legal claim over lead pollution from Notre-Dame fire
A complaint has been lodged over lead pollution in Paris from the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral Photo: Fabien Barrau | AFP

Local families along with the Paris branch of the CGT trade union and the anti-pollution association Henri Pezerat, have filed the legal complaint alleging city and public health authorities endangered lives.

“Despite the scale of the fire and knowledge about the risk of pollution and contamination… no precaution in particular was taken by the authorities involved for more than three months after the fire,” according to a copy of the complaint seen by AFP.

It says 400 tonnes of lead from the roof of the Gothic masterpiece melted or were dispersed as microparticles over the French capital during the blaze on April 15, 2019.

“Children (in crèches and schools), neighbours and workers have clearly been exposed to the risk of lead” pollution, the complaint adds. “These facts amount to the crime of endangering the lives of others.”

The square in front of the cathedral was closed again to the public in May this year after tests revealed high concentrations of toxic lead particles.

Several months after the fire, city authorities ordered a deep-clean of schools in the area, while children and pregnant women were urged to have blood tests.

The complaint says the city withheld information from school directors and failed to act promptly. It also targets the police department, the culture ministry and regional health authorities.

The efforts of firefighters ensured the great medieval edifice survived the fire despite the collapse of the spire and much of the roof being destroyed.

But the lead risks delayed work on clearing debris and launching the restoration effort for the landmark, which President Emmanuel Macron wants open for visitors in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, but they have said an accident, possibly caused by a short circuit or discarded cigarette butt, remains the most likely explanation.