The Greening Up of Paris
When I arrived in Paris last week late in the evening and took a taxi home from the Gare de Lyon. Upon landing in front of my apartment door, I began to open the taxi door, careful not to hit the parked car on the right, but much to my surprise, there wasn’t one. In fact, there weren’t any parked cars at all. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
As it turns out, while I was gone for three weeks, the city completely redeveloped my street, taking out all of the street parking, adding bike racks, creating additional walking paths on the street (since the sidewalks are so narrow), repaving it and marking it for bikes and pedestrians. Quelle surprise! Stupidly, I had completely ignored the signs that had been up for a while before I left for Nice, warning us about the forthcoming work.
What a difference! The street is quiet as a mausoleum now and as pleasurable to walk down as a village lane. I am not complaining.
Paris is set to implement a traffic-calm city center zone, prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users. The zone, known as a “zone apaisée” or limited traffic zone (ZTL), will be established by early 2024 at the latest. This initiative follows the example of several French cities and major European cities like Madrid, Milan, and Rome, which have successfully reduced vehicle flow in their city centers.
The perimeter of the zone will encompass the Paris Centre (arrondissements 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th) and the northern part of the left bank above boulevard Saint-Germain (5th, 6th, and 7th). The boundaries of the zone will be defined by Place de la Concorde to the west, the Grands Boulevards to the north (including boulevard des Italiens, Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin, du Temple, and Beaumarchais), Place de la Bastille, boulevard Bourdon to the east, and boulevard Saint-Germain to the south.
In the traffic-calmed zone, various groups will be allowed to circulate within the traffic-calmed zone, including residents, buses, individuals with inclusion mobility cards or European parking cards, and those with specific purposes such as deliveries, medical consultations, shopping, visiting galleries, or attending events. However, transit traffic passing through the zone without stopping will be prohibited. Active modes of transportation, such as bicycles and scooters, will not be affected by the restrictions on through-traffic.
To monitor compliance within the zone, random checks will be conducted at the zone exits. Initially, municipal police will handle these inspections until the development of effective and legally secure technological solutions by the French government. The required proof of identity during inspections may include on-street or parking lot parking tickets, resident parking entitlement cards, badges for residents without parking cards, and specific documents depending on the vehicle category.
Interviews conducted in 2021 showed that 24% of respondents were in favor of the project’s philosophy, viewing it as a first step towards calming the center of Paris. However, 22% were opposed, and 38% expressed concerns about potential negative externalities associated with the ZTL. The interview process also revealed that respondents desired spaces for sitting/resting, meeting/sharing, and refreshment within the traffic-calmed zone. Anticipated benefits of the zone include reduced air and noise pollution, as well as improved comfort for pedestrians and cyclists.
In conjunction with the traffic-calmed zone project, the City of Paris has initiated the “Embellir votre quartier” (Beautify Your Neighborhood) initiative across the entire city, aiming to transform daily living spaces by introducing more greenery, pedestrian areas, bicycle paths, and furniture adapted to new uses. The Marais district’s traffic plan is also being considered for modification to alleviate traffic congestion. The initiative involves consultation processes at the neighborhood level.
Overall, the traffic-calmed zone project in Paris aims to create a safer and more sustainable urban environment, with a focus on enhancing the quality of life for residents and promoting alternative modes of transportation. It is estimated that only 30% of “transients” absolutely need their car. Of all the traffic passing through the center of Paris, a very large proportion is transit traffic, i.e. people passing through the center of Paris without stopping. Most of this transit traffic is made up of Parisians, who therefore have numerous alternatives to the use of motorized modes of transport. Most of this traffic is made up of cars and motorized two-wheelers used for simple home-to-work journeys. Service vehicles” (commercial vehicles, cabs, heavy goods vehicles) account for just 33% of traffic.
See more about what the city is doing to improve its streets on the official city website pages:
AN URBAN GARDEN
Take the #10 Métro line to the very end to Boulogne-Pont de Saint-Cloud and you will land at one of the most beautiful gardens in France—the Albert-Kahn Museum and Garden (Musée Départemental Albert-Kahn).
A new building, designed by architect Kengo Kuma, houses the photographic and cinematographic collections from the Archives de la Planète…65,000 notes and images of artworks from the museum’s collections, many of which visitors can explore, a vast collection of still and moving images captured in the early 20th-century, highlighting the richness and diversity of people and cultures, just as we did on Saturday afternoon.
The collection from the Archives can also be accessed online and downloaded in high resolution (under a license). When doing a search using the keyword “France,” almost 40,000 images and videos resulted!
Albert Kahn was a notable French banker and philanthropist, recognized for initiating the archives. Over a span of 22 years, this endeavor resulted in a remarkable collection of 72,000 color photographs and 183,000 meters of film. Born in 1860 in Marmoutier, Bas-Rhin, he was the eldest of four children of a Jewish cattle dealer. In 1879, Kahn began working as a bank clerk in Paris while pursuing a degree in the evenings. In 1892, he became a principal associate of the Goudchaux Bank, which was regarded as one of Europe’s most significant financial institutions. He also championed higher education by promoting traveling scholarships. Unfortunately, the economic crisis of the Great Depression caused Kahn’s financial downfall, putting an end to his ambitious projects. He died in November 1940 in France during the Nazi occupation.
Kahn created “Les Jardins du Monde” (the Gardens of the World) on this vast property in Boulogne-Billancourt in 1893. The exceptional garden, now public and worth a visit or two or three, showcases various styles, including English, Japanese, a rose garden, and a conifer wood. When I tell you that an afternoon in the garden is as heavenly as it gets, it’s an understatement.
Enjoy a few of the photos here that we took as we sauntered down the paths circling the entire garden…just before the skies opened up and poured buckets!
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian at the Jardin Albert Kahn
P.S. Are you considering retirement in France? Don’t do it lightly. Let us help you make the smartest decisions to ensure you create the best retirement plan you can. We can expertly advise you on a variety of topics you’ll need to consider. Contact us to learn more.