Cars back up in rush hour traffic as they approach the Place de la Concorde in Paris on April 19, 2007. REUTERS/CHARLES PLATIAU
Think of a big city like New York, Los Angeles, London, or Paris. What comes to mind? Cars? Traffic? Noise? Pollution?
Now try and imagine being in one of these cities without those things. It’s hard to even think of outside of The Walking Dead or another TV or Movie apocalypse.
On September 27, Paris will do just this. They will have “Une Journée Sans Voiture,” or a day without cars. This means that traffic will be closed to all of the major areas of the city including all of the popular tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower and even the busiest neighborhoods. These areas will be “fully dedicated to pedestrians, allowing them to discover a new Paris.”
The day is meant to be a part of a larger campaign by the city to fight pollution, which is the main health risk caused to the environment by the largest cities in the world, including Paris. It comes around the same time as Europe Mobility Week (September 16-22) and COP 21 (November) which is the annual United Nations climate conference. The French Senate released a report stating that air pollution costs Paris over €100 billion each year and this number will only grow if more and more cars continue to fill the streets.
This day is not just about pollution however. It is meant to be a showcase to people about what the city, and the world could be like if we could reduce traffic. Not only would we make a positive impact on the environment by reducing carbon emissions, but we’d all save money, time, and patience from not being stuck in traffic for hours each day. Moreover, we’d be less stressed without the noise and danger of cars filling the streets of every city. We could reduce our oil usage which we know we have to start doing. We could make the streets a safe place for tourists, our children, and cyclists.
I know that this is just one day and that one day without traffic is not going to have a direct impact on much. This is not the first time this has happened however. Montreal, Bogota, Mexico City, Ho Chi Minh City and Brussels have all implemented similar days along with many others. Jakarta, Indonesia has a car free day every Sunday! While I don’t think these car-free days will save our planet or make commuting to Boston in rush hour any less frustrating, I think it is an inspiring idea and the kind of idea that I think is worth spreading. Maybe one day we can enjoy a permanently car free New York, Los Angeles, London, or Paris and hopefully it’s not because an apocalypse.