Journée sans Voitures in Paris

How the City of Love is returned to the people

It sounds like a small utopia and yet it is feasible - at least for one day. The Car Free Day in Paris really exists and is exactly what it says to be: A day without motorised traffic.

Many mobility concepts aim to return inner cities to people, reduce congestion and create more space for life and the quality of life of the individual. Private cars currently stand still the majority of the day in a parking spot, each occupying 9 square metres of parking space, that could be used as living space, green spaces and cultural facilities in the future.

With this Car Free Day, this utopia of a city without cars, albeit limited to one day and a few districts and zones, is realised practically overnight. With a few exceptions, parts of Paris are closed to vehicles today (2 December). Residents and tourists can experience the cosmopolitan city without traffic, enjoy the peace and quiet, attend free events and thus recapture the city for themselves. Since October of this year, this day of action has been a permanent institution for the city of Paris. Every first Sunday of the month, the streets of Paris are almost clear of traffic.

But what does it look like? Extinct streets? A quiet ghost town? On the contrary: birds singing instead of screeching tires, playing children instead of howling engines. Experiencing Paris without traffic attracts a lot of people who stroll through the city centre - and all that without street noise and exhaust fumes. "I enjoy this sea of people," says a passer-by. Several others enjoy the peace and quiet and the space for all kinds of activities.

Paris without cars every day, would that work? "It would be a limitation in mobility," says one. "Elderly people may need a car, but at my age, I don’t," answers another. In particular, some enjoy the added flexibility and comfort of services such as MOIA or a taxi - to get home safely in the evening or transport things - as a complement to the Métro or the buses.

The idea of this Sunday is not entirely new. Already in the 70's these days were held in Germany due to the oil crisis. Since then there have always been car-free days in larger cities around the world. In Mexico City, for example, the car-free day was introduced with the "Hay no circula" initiative. But in this case, it is not one day, where the traffic stops, but one workday per week on which the individual resident has to renounce using the car.

The regularity with which Paris, a city with over a million inhabitants, has almost uncompromisingly reduced motorised traffic in the city centre is, however, new in the development of urban mobility. And Paris invites people to join in.