Removing cars from a space around the Eiffel Tower to create a green path sounds good enough on paper, but the mayor of Paris is trying to attract residents and above all the police force to renew one of the most famous views of the city.
Thousands of tourists rush every day to catch the Eiffel Tower from across the Seine on the hill at the Trocadero, with its magnificent gardens and a modernist palace that houses museums.
The Trocadero walk is less romantic, however, requiring crossing two major intersections and the often traffic-clogged Pont d’Iena bridge.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo said to public surprise this week that she wants to push ahead with a project to banish cars and create a continuous garden between the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero esplanade.
Anne Hidalgo promises that “cars will not return to the Eiffel Tower” after the Olympics
“The Trocadéro will be greened and the Pont d’Iéna will be pedestrianized, up to the Champ de Mars, which will be reforested. All this will form a great park in the heart of Paris.” pic.twitter.com/KGFYF5B5ak
— Jonathan Berk (@berkie1) February 8, 2024
But while she hopes to take advantage of the 2024 Summer Olympics to start the project once the Games are over, her critics – and most notably Paris’ police chief – are resisting the plan.
The proposal is in line with the socialist mayor’s other efforts to squeeze cars out of Paris and make the city greener, a push that has divided residents and political opponents who say her policies go too far.
A trio of Japanese tourists taking pictures near the busy Pont d’Iena bridge agreed the plan would make a difference.
The view was “disappointing”, Mahiro told AFP, saying the view would be “prettier with fewer cars”.
Hidalgo launched the project in 2019, but quickly clashed with the city’s police chief at the time, Didier Lallement, and the right-wing mayors of three of the city’s districts over concerns about traffic disruptions.
But Hidalgo, who announced a similar plan in January to ban cars in half of the central Place de la Concorde, site of Luxor’s iconic Obelisk, hopes Olympics enthusiasm will rally support for the ambitious project.
“After the Olympics, there will be no more cars passing in front of the Eiffel Tower,” Hidalgo said in an interview with Ouest-France newspaper published on Tuesday.
A “green” Trocadero, a “pedestrian-friendly” Iena Bridge, and a “wooded” Champ-de-Mars, the broad lawn in the shadow of the Tower, “all together will form a great park in the heart of Paris”. she said.
Supporters have praised efforts by Hidalgo, a former presidential candidate, to reduce pollution and increase green spaces in the densely populated city, which can become unbearable when increasingly frequent heat waves hit. summer.
During her first term in office, Hidalgo scored her biggest urbanization victory with the pedestrianization of the embankment on the right bank of the Seine after a two-year battle.
But the Trocadero project was rejected by an administrative court in 2022 and 2023, and the mayor’s office admitted that the initial project was not destined to be implemented.
Hidalgo has presented a “modified” plan to police authorities, hoping preparations ahead of the Olympics will provide a new window of opportunity.
‘Too many questions’
France’s new right-wing culture minister, Rachida Dati, a perennial foe of Hidalgo’s who says she will run for mayor of Paris in 2026, called the new plan a “coup”.
And Paris police chief Laurent Nunez maintained his administration’s opposition, saying “many questions remain… on several points.”
In May 2022, his predecessor Lallement said he feared “significant traffic delays” and “stoppages” that would slow response times for emergency services.
Everton, a Brazilian photographer who has lived in France for 15 years, said he was concerned about how Hidalgo’s plan would affect travelers to Paris.
“It will block the bridge and there are people who have to drive to Paris,” he told AFP. “I believe we have to do something, but it’s important not to overdo it.”
Police authorities have said they are open to considering the new proposal promised by the mayor’s office.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most popular landmarks in the world, with 6.3 million tourists visiting it last year.
About 15 million visitors are expected for the Olympics in July and August, and the Paralympics in August and early September.