January 01, 2003

Seine and the Art of Sustainable Transportation

In 1996, a law was passed requiring all French municipalities of more than 100,000 inhabitants to develop plans to improve air quality. In Paris this resulted in the creation, in 1998 and 1999, of an Urban Mobility Master Plan (Plan des Displacements Urbains de l’Ile-de-France, or PDUIF) to reduce car traffic, emissions and energy use.

The plan’s 5-year implementation phase hopes to reduce car traffic by 3% and double the number of journeys by bicycle. It focuses on every element of transport, including mass transit, bicycles, pedestrians, parking, deliveries, traffic management, transit information, pricing and energy use.

It is still relatively easy to get around by car in Paris’s suburbs. However, 70% of short car trips in the Paris area are taken between suburbs, and if trends are not reversed, traffic will only increase. Therefore a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is being put in place to “structure the suburbs” around hubs to connect subways, trams, buses and cycle lanes.

They will feature bicycle parking and a “bouquet” of stores and services to make them more attractive to commuters. In the next 6 years, 22 km of exclusive bus lanes will be built, along with 77 km of tram lines and 10 km of subway extensions.

Within Paris’s city center, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has widened previously existing bus and bike lanes to 4.5 m and built concrete dividers completely blocking private cars from the lanes. It’s predicted that this will increase bus-route efficiency within the city by 10% to 20%. Delanoë has also experimented with a car-free zone along the right bank of the Seine, the Paris-Plage, which attracted 3 million visitors in its first week.

Though this is only a temporary measure, Delanoë plans to “reconquer the riverside for pedestrians all year round.” Delanoë‘s hope is that this will eventually discourage unnecessary car trips to the city center.

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