| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

Crowds flock to Champs-Elysees during Paris car-free day

On Sunday, crowds of Parisians and visitors strolled along the Champs-Elysees Avenue as the French capital’s normally congested streets were devoid of traffic.

Pedestrians walking down Paris’s most renowned boulevard may see the Arc de Triomphe dressed up as an art piece for the time being. As envisioned by the late artist Christo, the monument has been wrapped with silvery covering.

“It’s our opportunity to stroll on the Champs,” said Annie Matuszewski, a 68-year-old Parisian, “to stare at the Arc de Triomphe face-to-face and not just from the pavement.”

Paris held its first car-free day in 2015 in a central zone, expanding the initiative in 2017 to other districts within the city limits. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has sought to use the annual event to curb vehicle use and reduce air pollution.

Other thoroughfares in the capital on Sunday were filled with walkers and cyclists, although buses, taxis and residents using cars for essential journeys could still use some streets.

The Socialist mayor, a candidate in next year’s presidential election, has also reduced the speed limit on most of the city’s streets to 30 kilometers per hour (19 miles per hour) from 50 kph and pedestrianized some busy roads along the river Seine.

But her policies have irritated motorists, particularly some residents of the suburbs who complain they do not have adequate alternative forms of transport.

“Car-free day is great if we integrate the entire Paris region,” said Patrice, a retiree in the suburbs. “Otherwise, it’s almost as if they’re saying people living in Paris are doing fine inside their perimeter, and everything outside is not worth their attention.”

  • Reuters