A city where cars are banned. A city where everything you need is just a walk away. A city with green spaces and playgrounds instead of car parks. These are the plans of Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, for the French capital.

It’s 2016, and Paris is suffering: the smog is so thick you can’t see the Eiffel Tower, and air pollution is the highest it has been in every ten years. Subsequently, every second car has to stay in the garage. On one day cars with an even number at the end of the license plate are allowed on the roads, the next day those with an odd number. In exchange, local public transport is free. After some time the situation calmed down, but to Mayor Anne Hidalgo it was clear: there were too many cars in Paris. She needed to redesign the city center consistently and prioritise cyclists and pedestrians in the future.

The use of cars in Paris is dropping

In October 2016, Hidalgo closed one bank of the Seine to cars and promoted the development of a cycle path system. In just one year, cycling trips increased by 50 percent, especially among commuters. For the first time since 1940, the use of cars in Paris was dropping. In the future, additional road closures for cars as well as the expansion of the bicycle infrastructure are planned. Hidalgo now wants to redesign the city for pedestrians and cyclists. Crucially, this project is not a minor point in her program – it is the central motive of her electoral campaign.

The city of fifteen minutes

The Socialist politician realised that it would not be enough to simply ban the car. She wanted to transform the districts back to the way it was before cars were on the roads. Hidalgo envisioned self-sufficient communities within each district: with shops, parks, cafes, sports facilities, health centers, schools and even workplaces just a walk or bike ride away.

Hidalgo calls it the “city of fifteen minutes” – Ville Du Quart D’Heure. All the shops and facilities should be within fifteen minutes reach of the citizen – without a car. The concept is based on the idea of “chrono-urbanism,”suggested by Carlos Moreno, a professor at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne.

According to Moreno cities are “still driven by the paradigm of the oil era and its impact on roads and general urban planning”. However, he claims that the “era of omnipresent cars” is coming to an end.

Paris - a city of fifteen minutes
How Rue Vaugirar in Paris is currently looking like, credits: Céline Orsingher
Paris
How Rue Vaugirar in Paris will be looking like in the future, credits: Céline Orsingher

Paris: A city for its citizens, not for cars 

The “city of fifteen minutes” includes making important roads in Paris inaccessible to motor vehicles. If Hidalgo is re-elected, she promises green spaces and playgrounds instead of car parks. However, the disappearance of public parking spaces alone will not stop the traffic, as there are too many private parking spaces. But if the mayor closes the large squares and streets and turns the residential streets into promenades and playgrounds, using a car will become pointless.

No diesel cars by 2024

Incidentally, Hidalgo is also rejecting e-cars and alternative drive systems, as they take up the same space as common vehicles. Regardless of what type, driving a car in Paris will soon become the slowest way to move around.

Delivery vehicles will soon switch to smaller, electrically driven trucks or bicycles, much like in Asia. As soon as the network of cycle paths is properly developed, most cars will disappear. Hidalgo promises to ban all diesel cars by 2024, with petrol oil cars following in 2030. The city of fifteen minutes is only a few years away.