Paris divided: two-mile highway by Seine goes car-free for six months
A busy expressway on the right bank is being pedestrianised for a six-month trial – and socialist city hall hopes to keep it car-free for good. The issue has bitterly divided Parisians, with some saying the closure will bring traffic to a standstill
It is 8.30am on a weekday rush hour and the Voie Georges-Pompidou along the right bank of the Seine, normally one of the busiest highways in Paris, is eerily quiet.
Around 43,000 vehicles a day used this expressway, built in 1967, to cross central Paris from west to east, but they are nowhere to be seen. Instead, teams of workers are there, planning playgrounds, wooden terraces, waterside gardens restaurants and rectangular terrains for playing boules.
The drone from traffic on the parallel Quai des Celestins, higher up the river bank, suggests traffic there is moving along at a respectable pace – confounding those doomsayers who suggested the controversial scheme to pedestrianise two miles of city centre highway would bring neighbouring roads to a standstill.
While this section of the Seine closes every summer to host the Paris Plages – in which temporary artificial beaches are created along the right bank of the river – this time the expressway has not been reopened.
Instead Paris’s prefect of police – the state representative – this week approved the closure of the riverside route for a six-month trial. Socialist-run city hall says it intends to keep the highway closed to vehicles for good.