Paris’ anti-car measures create traffic chaos

The mayor of Paris’ decision to promote public transport and bicycle use at the expense of private cars has caused massive traffic congestion in a month when the city’s roads are at their emptiest.

Paris’ mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, recently approved plans to reduce road space available to private vehicles and boost public transport and cycle use by reserving lanes for buses, taxis and bicycles throughout the city centre. Over the summer concrete dividers have been placed around central areas, confining cars’ access, as part of Delanoe’s plan to create more space for residents and visitors. The move follows a one month allocation of four kilometres (2.5 miles) of the busy Left Bank, next to the River Seine in the center, to cyclists and skaters, which met with anger from motorists, but praise from environmentalists.

The new Socialist mayor has defended his plans against criticism that the car curbs have created massive traffic jams in a month when many are out of the city on holiday, saying that the moves are justified to curb air pollution, which “affects all Parisians and especially the most vulnerable – children and elderly people.” “Fighting against the car’s dominance is therefore a duty, but it also reflects the wishes of the majority of Parisians,” he said.

However, opponents of the plans are concerned that as commuters return to the capital in their droves to begin work again in September, the situation will become chronic. Opposition politicians have even said that the gridlock will actually increase air pollution rather than cutting it and criticised Delanoe for implementing the system in August, when most government officials, police and residents, who could protest, were away on holiday.

Already some motorcyclists are ignoring the lane separation, causing safety worries – the head of the Green Party and Deputy Mayor of Paris, Yves Contassot, has already been knocked off his bicycle in one such incident. Another criticism is that, because all private vehicles are banned from many lanes, delivery vehicles block the few lanes open to private traffic as they are forced to stop in the same lanes.

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