Paris Centre: Districts 1 through 4 Destined to Become Pedestrian
Volume XX, Issue 27
Today is Bastille Day, in French known as “Fête Nationale du 14 Juillet” or more simply put, “Le 14 Juillet.” This is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789—one of the most important events of the French Revolution. Celebrations are held throughout France, including the largest and oldest military parade in Europe held on the Champs-Élysées in front of the President of the Republic, along with other French officials and foreign guests.
There is plenty to do on the 13th and 14th of July all over France, but I am in Paris, the center of all the action. I like to watch the parade on the TV in the morning, but as you read this, I will be spending most of my day on the Champ de Mars, as I like to do, from mid-afternoon, picnicking with friends while waiting for the concert and fireworks to take place in the evening.
It’s spectacular! Everyone I invite, if they haven’t done it before, puts up arguments why they don’t want to be there all day, but those who do take us up on it never regret it and say after that the wait is worth it! It’s relaxing, fun and watching the open field fill up with other picnickers creating a huge level of excitement is just a part of the pleasure…the concert and especially the fireworks are exemplary.
I’ll tell you all about it next week, with photos (of course), so stay tuned for a full report, including the partying the night of the 13th as part of the Bals des Pompiers. My favorite place to celebrate the Bals is in front of the Mairie of Paris Centre (formerly the Mairie de 3ème Arrondissement), just steps from my apartment, where there is always a formidable band and good-humored party beginning at 9 p.m.
Yesterday in my mailbox was a “Lettre aux habitantes et habitants” for the summer of 2022 by the Mairie of Paris Centre. Paris Center is the new administrative district comprised of Arrondissements 1-4, combined to be more efficient. The mayor is Ariel Weil, a young man of 49 years, a Socialist, who was born in Jerusalem and attended Harvard Business School. He is married to Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, France’s third female rabbi, who co-leads the Liberal Jewish Movement of France. So, this is a cool couple running the show in my district and that makes me happy, even if the current mayor, Anne Hidalgo, doesn’t (make me happy. I am hoping M. Weil will be our next mayor!)
The letter to residents of the districts is something that is common in France, but very uncommon in the U.S.—our politicians actually communicate with us on a regular basis about what’s going on in our neighborhoods. This particular issue is filled with interesting statistics about things that have happened since 2021, such as…468 units of social housing have been created and 9,200 people have received permanent housing. That helps keep the homeless housed and we should all be happy about that.
In addition, it outlines the various projects in progress to enhance the district—the restoration of historic fountains, installation of new bike and scooter lanes, widening of certain sidewalks, new vegetation plantings, etc., etc. And it lists the elected officials of Paris Centre, 11 of the 23 being women (not counting Ariel Weil)…that’s pretty impressive in my book.
For those considering purchasing property in districts 1 through 4, that’s a smart move. The center of Paris is destined to become pedestrian zones. And when that happens, property values will increase immediately and life in these districts will become even more agreeable than it is now.
While the new low-emissions zone in Paris had just come into force on June 1, 2021, City Hall is continuing its consideration to improve the air quality of the capital aimed at eliminating transit traffic from the central districts, which would almost be equivalent to converting this area into a pedestrian zone. This initiative would severely limit traffic in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Arrondissements. The area would spill over beyond the Seine to the south, the border being set by Boulevard Saint-Germain and Quai Saint-Bernard to encroach somewhat on the 5th, 6th and 7th Arrondissements.
In short, only local residents, buses, taxis and professionals who operate in the area could circulate there. The rest of the vehicles would be forced to go around the perimeter. And for those who want to go to the center, it will be necessary to take public transport. In the event of positive discussions, the initiative could be adopted as early as sometime in 2022! With this project, City Hall wants to make the space available to pedestrians and cyclists, but also to reduce noise and atmospheric pollution. This reduction in traffic density should also facilitate better fluidity for public transport.
If the project seems interesting on paper, it is far from enthusing the opposition. It must be said that its opposition representatives are mainly at the head of the districts which are not concerned. They fear being overwhelmed by traffic diverted by these new rules. City Hall is also being criticized for a lack of substantive analysis. As a whole, the opposition is asking for a global traffic plan for Greater Paris. A fierce battle is already brewing between supporters and opponents of this project…and I can see why, but I am personally in favor of the plan!
The plan is presented on the city’s website.
Happy Bastille Day wherever you are!
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Tuesdays Après-Midi with William Jordan held us spellbound as the retired US diplomat expounded on the issues facing Americans living overseas and what we can do to make a difference. To read the report and see the recording of the session, visit our site page.