Why Paris is scrapping hundreds of signposts

Paris City Hall is reportedly set to tear down almost all of the city's 1,800 signposts to things like train stations and public squares, which it believes are ugly and present obstacles to pedestrians - although city's mayor says she knows nothing about it.

A sign points the way to Gare de l'Est in Paris. City Hall has decided to tear down its old road signs.
A sign points the way to Gare de l'Est in Paris. City Hall has decided to tear down its old road signs. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP.

They’re such a common sight in Paris you might not have even noticed them, but you’re sure to notice once they’re gone. The city has decided to remove almost all of the 1,800 large signs, pointing towards tourist attractions, monuments, public squares, train stations and other landmarks, which help drivers and pedestrians to navigate around the capital, France Bleu has reported.

The signs were installed between 25 and 30 years ago, but soon only a handful will remain, including those which point towards hospitals and car parks.

For local authorities, the road signs have become obsolete in a world where most people get around thanks to a GPS, and they are now doing more harm than good by taking up space on the pavement.

“They obstruct the passage of wheelchairs, prams, and people,” Caroline Grandjean, Director of Roads and Travel at City Hall said as the first signs were taken down on Rue de Lyon in the 12th arrondissement, according to France Bleu.

“It corresponded to a need 20 or 30 years ago, but not today. They’ve become totally obsolete,” deputy mayor of Paris Emmanuel Grégoire said.

But the argument is also aesthetic.

The Green mayor of the 12th arrondissement, Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, said removing the signs which “are impeding upon public space” was one step in “making our roads more attractive”.

The reaction from residents has been far from unanimous, but then neither has the reaction from within City Hall itself.

Speaking to France Bleu on Friday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was “really not aware of the removal of these large masts”.

“If these masts are removed, it’s certainly in order to replace them, of course we need masts […] we need signs,” she said, adding that “if there are too many, it’s necessary to clean up the landscape.

“You clean up, but you don’t remove, because not everybody has a GPS.”

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Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro