An ambitious plan by Paris’s mayor to make the banks of the Seine more pedestrian-friendly has cleared a major legal hurdle, with a local court ruling that a formerly busy highway along the city’s river must remain car-free.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed that the riverfront would stay pedestrianized in a video statement.
In 2016, a two-mile stretch of urban highway running along the Right Bank from the Tuileries gardens to the Henri IV tunnel—an area that is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site—was permanently closed off to vehicles and transformed into a promenade for walking and biking.
Historic decision just confirmed by justice enabling @Paris to give back the Right Bank of Seine river to pedestrians, after a half-century with an urban highway crossing the City of Light. It now opens a new horizon for more well-being & air quality here. Bravo !#BergesdeSeine pic.twitter.com/ebReAQzdaO— Pierre Cannet (@pierrecannet) October 25, 2018
Almost immediately, the move was met with opposition by conservative politicians and motorist advocacy groups, and in February 2018, a Paris court ruled to reverse the mayor’s decision and reopen the street to cars.
That ruling was appealed, and this week, a higher court has declared the street should be a car-free public space.
The roadway itself, which had been closed in summer as part of the city’s long-standing Paris Plages initiative to create temporary urban beaches along the Seine, is a popular destination for locals and tourists. A 2016 poll showed that 55 percent of Parisians supported the plan.
The highway closure was first proposed by Hidalgo as part of a larger “Paris Breathes” air quality campaign. Pollution in the capital city is among the European Union’s worst and even sometimes competes with levels in Beijing and China. According to the Independent, medical experts have named air pollution as a contributing factor in 2,500 deaths in the city and 6,600 in the greater metropolitan area each year.
A Paris court has finally confirmed that the #BergesDeSeine should remain a space for walkers and cyclists rather than return to a multilane motorway. Great decision for air quality, climate and everybody who loves to promenade in Paris! Bravo @Anne_Hidalgo pic.twitter.com/WR6rEBp4vq— Josh Harris (@Jose_Harris) October 25, 2018
Hidalgo has emerged as a leader in the car-free cities movement to limit vehicles in downtown areas and promote healthier modes of travel. Over the last year, she has declared citywide monthly car-free days, worked to expand Paris’s bike network and announced plans to ban gas-powered cars in the city by 2020.
This story was originally published in 2016 and has been updated with the most recent court ruling.