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PARIS

How Paris plans to transform the polluted périphérique into a ‘green belt’

Paris' Mayor Anne Hidalgo says she wants to transform the city’s congested, polluted péripherique ring road into a "green belt" around the capital city. Here’s how she plans to do it.

How Paris plans to transform the polluted périphérique into a 'green belt'
A sign over Paris' Peripherique ring road warns about air pollution (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Paris’ 35km-long périphérique (French for ring-road, or beltway) is notorious for its high levels of pollution and terrible traffic jams.

Currently, over 1.1 million trips take place along the ring road each day, which puts those living near the road at risk of toxic air pollution. 

But that might all change if Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s plan, which she announced May 18th, is successful. These are the steps for the green future of the périphérique.

An ‘Olympic Lane’

In 2024, when Paris hosts the summer Olympics, the mayor plans to create an “Olympic lane,” which would only be used for buses, taxis and carpooling for participants of the Olympics. According to the mayor’s deputy, David Belliard, this would eliminate about 80,000 vehicles from traffic. By 2030, their goal is to get rid of one lane altogether (normally the road has four lanes going in each direction). 

Increasing vegetation

The mayor plans to make the road, which exposes its neighbours to poor air quality, more green by planting a total of 70,000 trees on the embankments, the ramps, the central median, and even eventually the lane that is set to be removed.

She also aims for more green spaces at points along either side of the road with some 10 hectares of vegetation to be planted in total.

“Revegetation is an extraordinary and fabulous lever for transforming this entire territory,” said Hidalgo.

Also planned before 2024 is the upgrade of the entrance and exit points at the Portes de Clichy, La Chapelle, Brancion, Dauphine and Maillot.

READ ALSO: Why this road is simply the worst in France (and possibly the world)

How will they do it?

It will not be an easy task to accomplish – Mayor Hidalgo has already faced backlash for other efforts to reduce car usage in the capital. In her announcement, Hidalgo said she plans to “listen” to motorists, truck drivers, and shopkeepers before beginning the changes. She is betting that the long timeframe of the project will give people time “to adapt.” 

Thus far, however, only the “Olympic” lane has been approved by Paris’ police prefecture, and Valérie Pécresse, the centre-right president of the Île-de-France region has expressed disapproval for the plan and announced that a poll she organised showed that 90% of voters opposed the “removal” of a lane on the ring road.

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to create a more “harmonious and pleasant living environment” for those who live near the ring road. In Paris, car traffic is responsible for more than half of the nitrogen oxide emissions, so decreasing pollution levels is of utmost importance. But it is not just air pollution that Mayor Hidalgo hopes to reduce – noise pollution is also an issue that affects the 144,000 people living in the immediate area. 

“The grey belt will be transformed into a green belt,” said Hidalgo.

Member comments

  1. “According to the mayor’s deputy, David Belliard, this would eliminate about 80,000 vehicles from traffic. ”

    And where will they be eliminated to, we wonder ? Into thin air ?

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ENVIRONMENT

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

Unesco has announced that the Mediterranean - including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes - will be at risk of tsunamis within the next 30 years, and therefore has included it in its tsunami protection program

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

The risk of tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea is real – on October 16th, 1979, a tsunami, caused by a landslide, hit the coast of Nice and killed a dozen people. More recently, the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea was hit by a tsunami in 2020.

But the climate crisis and rising sea levels mean that experts fear that in the future they will no longer be rare events along the Mediterranean coast.

Unesco has therefore announced that it will be adding thousands of communities to its Tsunami Ready Plan, including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes.

Experts fear that tsunamis in the Mediterranean could reach up to a metre in height and are almost guaranteed in the next 30 years.

According to Unesco’s calculations, “there is a 100% chance” that tsunamies will occur in the Mediterranean “over the next thirty years.” Therefore, the UN organisation has called for public authorities to institute their multistep programme, which would encourage awareness, warning, and prevention mechanisms for at-risk coastal communities. 

The preparedness program seeks to ensure that these cities and towns, like Marseille and Cannes, will have the necessary response mechanisms in place by 2030.

The Tsunami Ready program, which has already been piloted in dozens of communities across the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and was prepared by Unesco experts, establishes twelve indicators to be respected by the communities concerned. This means that Marseille and Cannes will be expected create plans for identifying tsunamis threats and build community awareness and preparation for how to cope with tsunamis.

The twelve readiness indicators are shown in the graphic below:

Communities must meet all 12 indicators, which cover Assessment, Preparedness, and Response, will be recognized as ‘Tsunami Ready’ by the UNESCO/IOC.

Tsunamis are usually caused by seismic activity (78 percent of them) – like the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed over 210,000 people, but 10 percent are also caused by volcanic activity and landslides, like the tsunami that hit the Pacific island of Tonga in January. Meanwhile, the rare 2 percent are caused by meteorological activity.

However, the increased concern for tsunamis along France’s Mediterranean coast is in part due to rising sea levels (resulting from the climate crisis) and the need to better monitor underwater volcanos.

Rising sea levels can lead to an increase in the power of tsunamis – up to tenfold. In some parts of the world, such as Macao, scientists estimate that  tsunamis will have twice their current impact by 2050.

Even a tsunami of 50cm high can do a lot of damage – what sounds like a small flow of water is actually capable of lifting a car and depositing it several dozen meters away.

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