Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées (draft): More green, fewer cars
Photo: PCA STREAM / AFP
Square trimmed trees, overpriced fast food, cobblestones and lots of cars - this is how the Champs-Élysées present themselves at the moment.
The Parisian boulevard has lost much of its charm in recent years.
The city and residents have long since realized that something urgently needs to change: the Champs-Elysées are to become greener and more pedestrian-friendly, with water dispensers and a new design for the street cafés.
"As mayor, I hope that we will find pleasure in the Champs-Élysées again," said Anne Hidalgo, who has returned to city politics after failing to run for the presidency.
According to her own account, she still vividly remembers how she, who grew up in a suburb of Lyon, steered her car through the chaotic roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time.
As early as January 2021, she announced the presentation of a redesign project, which had already been discussed before.
Only now did she become more specific.
The Champs-Élysées are a place of longing for many tourists, sung by Joe Dassin with the catchy refrain »Aux Champs-Élysées.. «.
And they are regularly the stage for national events: the military parade takes place there on the national holiday on July 14, a newly elected president traditionally drives down the Champs-Élysées after taking office, the Tour de France ends on the boulevard, the national soccer team celebrates its big victories.
As popular as the Champs-Élysées are with visitors, they are frowned upon by Parisians themselves. Only about five percent of the people who stay there are locals.
"I quickly realized that Parisians don't like the Champs-Élysées," says the mayor.
At the end of 2018, the boulevard was also the scene of the yellow vest protests.
Violence often broke out during the Saturday demonstrations, numerous shops and even the Arc de Triomphe were damaged.
Mini gardens around 500 trees
Hidalgo presented her plan on Wednesday, with which the two-kilometer-long boulevard and the two adjacent squares are to become a "showcase for a traffic-calmed city".
The Place Concorde, which turns into a glowing stone desert every summer, is to be massively greened.
Pedestrians should be able to get from the Tuileries to the Champs-Elysées without having to cross stinking traffic jams.
Pedestrians will also be given more space than before around the triumphal arch at the other end of the boulevard.
A good 100 more are to be added to the current 400 or so trees on the Champs-Elysées.
Mini-gardens are to be created at the foot of each tree.
The small park in the lower part of the boulevard is to be supplemented with new green spaces and given direct access to the banks of the Seine.
"We have to rethink the city and adapt it to the consequences of climate change," says Hidalgo, who has been campaigning for years to ban cars from the city.
She calls it the “ecological transformation of the city.” She would also like to reduce the number of lanes on the Champs-Élysées and around the Arc de Triomphe.
But in doing so, she encounters fierce resistance.
"We're still discussing that," says Marc-Antoine Jamet, chairman of the Champs-Élysées Committee, which represents the neighborhood's businesspeople, defensively.
They fear that too many customers will stay away from the luxury shops if they are no longer allowed to drive up in motorized vehicles.
The question of how much space cyclists will have in the future is also still unresolved.
The cycle path on the edge of the Champs-Élysées is one of the most unpopular in the city, with its potholes and luxury cars happily parked there.
The fact that the Olympic Games are to take place in Paris in 2024 will significantly speed up the transformation of the Champs-Élysées, says the mayor.
Maybe by then it will be possible to take a selfie in front of the triumphal arch without putting your life in danger due to the multi-lane traffic.