In an effort to raise awareness for climate change, Parisians and tourists in the City of Light left their cars at home on October 1st to take part in “Paris Sans Voiture.”
The city hosted similar days in the past, but this was the first time in modern history that 105 kilometers of the streets of Paris, France were open only to pedestrians, cyclists, and roller-bladers between 11 AM to 6 PM.
The results were truly astonishing as the bustling city of Paris came to a halt on Sunday. Many people flocked to the streets on bicycles and on foot, while others preferred painted cardboard cars.
The only exceptions to the event were taxis, public transportation, and emergency vehicles. French police officials say that if Parisians were caught driving, they faced fines of up to $200.
The event was inspired by Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was elected in 2014 on a campaign to curb air pollution and reduce traffic. She has since held the event on smaller scales but wanted this year to be bigger and better than ever.
“This initiative requires an enormous amount of preparation. Particularly because this year the zone has been enlarged to the whole of Paris.”
With the 2024 Olympics scheduled to take place in Paris, Hidalgo vowed to fight pollution in the city as it prepared to take the world stage.
In a city notorious for its congestion, she hoped to make it the world’s most bikeable city by reducing car use while increasing the number of bike and bus lanes. The “Plan vélo” (Bike Project) is a key part of efforts to reduce pollution by taking motor vehicles off the streets of Paris. The aim is to double the length of cycle lanes and create 10,000 new parking places for bikes.
The “car-free” day raised awareness of alternative transportation and shows Parisians what life would be like with fewer cars on the streets, a goal Hidalgo hopes to reach by 2020.
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Katherine Whitehead is a senior at the University of Tennessee. Her passion lies in writing, travel and anything having to do with Jon Snow’s butt.