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
Ridng the evening Transilien
After boulot and métro
Riding hours towards dodo"
The 1st Paris Open
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