Ho-Hum 'Car-Free' Day

photo: cafe au trappiste

Near Châtelet, one of Paris' many beer bars.

Paris Gets Its Own 19 Holes

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 27. September 1999:- Last Wednesday Paris had its second annual car-free day. The car-free zone was increased in area over last year's first edition. By 'car-free,' I mean all private vehicles were banned which were not exempted from the ban.

But the number of vehicles - including RATP buses, which were not banned in any case - running on GPL or electricity must have also increased because the no-traffic zonesphoto: rue de rivoli on wednesday were far from traffic-free. Unlike an ordinary Sunday when the right-bank speedway is closed, it was roaring as usual.

A lone motorcyclist on his very own railroad, called Rivoli.

Another perverse effect was the fact that the fewer vehicles seemed to use the extra room for drag races when launching off from green traffic lights. The Rue de Rivoli would be temporarily empty of traffic until the light changed at the Hôtel de Ville; then the cars gathered there would come roaring west.

Then after they passed, and you thought it safe to cross, the light would go green at the Boulevard de Sebastopol, and half the cars waiting there would swing into Rivoli to charge up towards Concorde. The result was having to be more alert than usual.

With the extended 'traffic-free' zone, the garment district around Sentier was included. This area is normally full of small delivery trucks, but on Wednesday they were kept out. This meant that their drivers had to try to park them as close as possible and make their pickups and deliveries on foot - and they were reported to be very annoyed.

Le Parisien's poll of the 'man-on-the-street' revealed an almost universalphoto: bike trucking opinion that one 'car-free' day a year is not enough - as far as going to or from work is concerned, Paris' excellent public transport can handle it.

Delivery driver on bike was a rare sight on the Rue de Rivoli on Wednesday.

With bike lanes, bus lanes and 'red' lanes, Paris' streets are shrinking. The amazing thing is the number of private cars in the city, belonging to residents. Many don't use them to go to work because of the problem of paying for two parking spaces; plus the fact that public transport gets there on time.

These tentative 'car-free-day' experiments are less impressive than the regular Sunday closing of streets to all motorized traffic. Of course there isn't much delivery activity on Sundays and bus schedules are reduced.

I think the calmness of Sundays is what nearly everybody hopes is a sign of the future for Paris.

Hear Ye, Oh Franciliens!

Last week, the French term for suburbs - banlieue - was banished by the SNCF and replaced with 'Transilien' - pronounced 'tran-sil-ee-en.' This is the public-transport match for the term 'Francilien' which has been long used as synonym for 'residents of the Ile-de-France.'

This new name has been plastered all over 380 stations and on the 4,850 daily trains, and late in the week the SNCF was announcing the renovation of several stations. At this rate it will take a couple ofphoto: snch transilien logo years to fix them all up - and the SNCF has made no announcements about adding public toilets to any of them.

Even though I am no longer a Francilien, nor a banlizard - I never could get 'banlieue' out of my mouth correctly - 'ban-loo!' - I welcome the change and expect to hear a popular song made up for it, to replace the familiar 'Banlieue Blues.'

"We are two million
Riding the morning Transilien
To Paris and the métro
To be like the Parisians
With their métro, boulot, dodo,
We are two million Franciliens
Riding the evening Transilien
After boulot and métro
Riding hours towards dodo"
The 1st Paris Open

Unlike the PR bandwagon rolled out for car-free day, Paris' 1st Open Golf tournament received scant notice - other than the poster that ran in last week's Metropole - until the first day of the two-day event, which this reporter 'covered' by chancing to see it on TV-news on Saturday evening.

On the poster, in small print, there was mention of the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes. I don't know everything, so these two big parks could have golf courses hidden in them without me being aware of them - although I do own an unused 3-iron that I got for 10 francs 'on sale.'

So then, I am watching the TV-news and there's Severiano Ballesteros, whacking a golfball off a tee on the Champ de Mars, trying for a hole-in-one on the Tour Eiffel.

This idea was dreamed up by Fred Beauchêne, who has already brought us skiing at Trocadéro andphoto: parking service, fauchon wind-surfing in the Seine off Bercy. The 'Paris Open' is an 18 hole, 41 kilometre-long course played within Paris, which does not have a regulation golf course, not even in the big parks.

The Champ de Mars was picked to be fairway one, 17 and 18. No mention was made of where the 19th hole is located. After the first hole, the second was at the Parc Floral at Vincennes as were three and four.

Holes five and six were played somewhere around the 'Ile de Bercy' - which must have been a barge, because there's no such island within Paris. This is possible, because TV-news showed the golfers trying to hit a green on the Allée des Cygnes, near the Statute of Liberty. Another view showed them teeing off from the fake grass on a barge deck.

On the 11th hole, the hazard was the water jets at the Parc André Citroën. These bounce up and down - fairly quickly - so it takes a well-timed shot to get over them. The only cement or asphalt fairway seems to have been at the Hôtel de Ville, which has its 'Trou d'Honneur,' otherwise numbered as zero.

Saturday's 'Pro-Am' round included 72 players, in 18 teams, each with a 'pro.' Sunday's 'Open Calvin Klein' had six teams with three 'pros' each, with four former champion golfers forming a seventh team.

Metropole's New Web Address Continues

This is the new URL for 'Metropole Paris:' http://www.metropoleparis.com I have been getting the 'no DNS' message about half the time I have to access this magazine. Some readers have said the old URL works fine, with the 're-direct' sending them to the current issue. Please 'bookmark' this new URL, but don't throw out the old one - just in case.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 3.39 - 28. September 1998 - The Café Metropole column was titled - 'Pink Vote Takes Cake in Germany.' 'Au Bistro' had 'Only Elections, Cars and Date Change Stuff.' This issue had three features, entitled 'A 'Sort Of' Car-Free Day in Paris,' count down Eiffel Tower 'Right Here, Today: 20,000 Jobs' and 'Poster Hunt On the Boul' Mich.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'What's that Wierd Noise?'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 2.39 - 29. September 1997 - The Café Metropole column was called - 'Paris' Long August.' The Au Bistro column was entitled 'President Chirac's Roadshow.' This issue had two features, entitled 'Wandering Towards Beaubourg' and 'Les Halles Is a Hole In Paris' Centre.' An eMail from Kathie Coulson suggested - 'On a Hundred Bucks a Day' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Indian' Summer for Waiters.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 96 more itty-bitty, mostly cloudy, cool and occasionally stormy Paris and Ile-de-France autumn days to go until the really big year-end party is in full swing.
signature, regards, ric

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