‘We love Paris, but please clean it up’: How life in the French capital could be improved

After Paris was labelled the 'dirty man of Europe' we asked The Local readers who live there whether the city is really that bad, or if its problems are all exaggerated.

'We love Paris, but please clean it up': How life in the French capital could be improved
Does Paris really need a clean-up? Photo: AFP

Paris is home to a huge international community all of whom have chosen, for one reason or another, to make it their home.

And in general they're pretty happy to have done so, citing the city's extraordinary architectural beauty, fascinating history, lively atmosphere and great social life as among their favourite things about the City of Lights.

But when we asked them for the one thing they would change about Paris given the chance, the frankly grubby state of the place emerged as the overwhelming concern.

Elections will be held next year for the Mayor of Paris and already it's shaping up to be a tight three-horse race. So if any of the candidates are reading – this is what our readers want you to tackle first.

1. Clean it up

Joel Halpern, who lives in Paris' 12th arrondissement, said: “Clean, clean, clean. Particularly around the train stations. These are our front doors, and they are a wreck. Drunkenness, homelessness, garbage, etc. And rarely is ever security outside the station. So, for women and the elderly, it is a major point of concern.”

Charles, who lives in the 11th, asked simply that authorities “make the city cleaner” and wants a city “free from rats”.


While Laura added that “the smell of urine, the homeless people smoking crack at the Metro stations and the rubbish and graffiti littered everywhere” were the worst things about the city.

Paris' levels of hygiene have certainly been in the spotlight recently, but current mayor Anne Hidalgo pointed out that the city spends almost €600 million a year on cleaning, and has called for Parisiens to start taking responsibility and clean up after themselves.

Reader Sarah Schilling agreed, with a simple message: “Men – stop peeing everywhere, the city smells like human urine.”

The slightly pungent odour that hangs over certain parts of Paris has long been a concern for authorities, with extra spending on public toilets and pissoirs in an attempt to stop people – mainly men it has to be said – relieving themselves in the streets.

But it's not just men that are a problem, the city's dogs (or rather their owners) were also under fire for fouling the pavements.

Canadian Daniel Clarke said: “If more people started picking up after their dogs, maybe there would be a stronger argument for allowing dogs in the parks.”

2. Improve the transport

The Paris Metro system is one of the world's most reasonably priced public transport system and between that and the RER it provides excellent coverage of the city. However it is not without its problems, with a lack of air conditioning turning certain lines into a hellscape during the summer months and Metro users being seen as easy picking by the city's pickpocketing gangs.

Laura added: “We need to stop the increasing number of pickpocket gangs around the city and Metro system. It’s scary and unsettling when you are travelling with small children and have to protect your belongings so securely. It is also horrible seeing it happen to unsuspecting tourists so often.”

On the surface there are also some problems, particularly with electric scooters.

Tad Frizzell said: “Getting the scooters off the sidewalks (parked or moving) would improve life in Paris.”

Manant, who lives in the 13th arrondissement, wanted the Vélib system improved while Patricia from the 9th called for a ban on motorbikes.

While several others wanted traffic restricted or banned altogether in the city centre.

These problems are of course not new to city authorities, and current mayor Anne Hidalgo has brought in several measures including tougher restrictions on the use of electric scooters and a ban on older diesel cars in the centre of Paris.

Another one of her projects is major works to improve the experience for cyclists in the city. Although this attracted some grumbling about the large number of roadworks taking place in the city, several Local readers cited the cycling facilities as one of their favourite things about Paris.

Kath Limroth who lives in Marais said the bike paths were her favourite thing, while Sarah Schilling said: “Biking has opened up the city to me, and is often faster than public transport.” 

3. Tighten up the smoking rules 

Paris' famous café terraces are a favourite with locals and visitors alike, but the presence of smokers on the terraces puts many people off.

Claire Long, of the 6th arrondiseement, said: “A ban on smoking would be pleasant since we love to keep our windows open on nice days. Too many people smoke right outside of buildings and businesses, creating a cloud that hovers.”

Although they did have their gripes, most readers were keen to stress that overall they loved Paris, with the city's rich history and the care taken to preserve the architecture and historic sites among the things that most people cited as their favourite thing.

Beautiful parks, the famous café culture, the food, the street scene and the wide boulevards were among the other highlights mentioned.

Do you agree that these are Paris' top priorities? Head to our Facebook page and join the discussion.



Member comments

  1. Too many people squeezed into a small area doesn’t help the problem. Also, what about all the cigarette waste all over the ground?

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Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed

Striking airport workers have blocked part Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, with some flights already delayed by at least one hour.

Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed
Striking airport workers outside Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt | AFP

Last month, trade unions representing workers at the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) – the city’s Charles-de-Gaulle-Roissy and Orly airports – called for a strike between July 1st and July 5th in an ongoing dispute between French airport workers and bosses over contract renegotiations.

A second wave of protests are expected next week, after a strike notice was filed for July 9th.

Tensions mounted on Friday morning as some 400 protesters staged a raucous demonstration at CDG’s terminal 2E, which mostly deals with flights outside the Schengen zone, as police officers looked on.

At Orly airport, meanwhile, some 250 people demonstrated “outside”, while a small group was inside.

The dispute is over a long-term plan by ADP to bring in new work contracts for employees at the airports, which unions say will lower pay, job losses and a reduction in rights and bonuses for employees.

The strike is being jointly called by the CGT, CFE-CGE, Unsa, CFDT and FO unions, who said in a joint press release that the proposals will “definitively remove more than a month’s salary from all employees and force them to accept geographical mobility that will generate additional commuting time”.

Unions say that staff face dismissal if they do not sign the new contracts.

ADP said on Wednesday that it expected ‘slight delays for some flights but no cancellations’ to services – but it urged travellers to follow its social media operations for real-time updates.

On Thursday, the first day of action, 30 percent of flights were delayed between 15 minutes and half-an-hour.

ADP’s CEO Augustin de Romanet had said on Tuesday that ‘everything would be done to ensure no flight is cancelled’. 

ADP reported a loss of €1.17 billion in 2020. 

Stressing that discussions are continuing over the proposed new contracts, the CEO called for “an effort of solidarity, with a red line: no forced layoffs.”