Sundays are generally regarded as a day for rest and somewhat comatose behavior, but Parisians took that notion to a new level this weekend. The French capital celebrated its third annual day without cars on October 1, using alternate methods of transportation to navigate about the City of Lights. While this wasn’t the first time the city had toyed with the notion of a car-free day, it was certainly the most extensive experiment to date – only pedestrians and cyclists were allowed throughout the heart of city, an area comprising of 40 square miles
“This initiative requires an enormous amount of preparation,” city mayor Anne Hidalgo told Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday. “Particularly because this year the zone has been enlarged to the whole of Paris.”
The goal of the initiative, of course, was to raise awareness for the deleterious effects of pollution in the capital. Indeed, Hidalgo was elected three years ago on the platform of clean energy – the mayor has previously promised to address pollution, and is making new bus and bicycle lanes a priority.
The restrictions on cars remained in place from 11 am to 6 pm local time, leaving the vast majority of Sunday completely vehicle-free. To be fair, not all cars were banned from the streets of Paris. Taxis, buses, and naturally, emergency services were still allowed to operate, so if folks really needed to get somewhere in a jiffy, there was a viable option available.
The city government also allowed folks who needed to visit an elderly or handicapped individual with a “genuine emergency” to drive, according to the AFP, though their speed was capped at 20 miles per hour.
And while this may seem like little more than a PR stunt, rest assured, there were serious consequences for those who tested the limits of the ban. A number of police officers and city officers were on hand to monitor drivers and ensure they were all equipped with legitimate reason – those who ignored the restrictions were faced with fines ranging from 90 to 135 euros ($105 to $159).
“The aim is simply to enjoy the city in a different way,” said Paris city transport official Christophe Najdovski on Friday. “It’s a day that is meant to be educational, fun and friendly.”