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One of the cars of the famed Orient Express, on show at the Institut du Monde Arabe. Photo: Eric Tenin of Paris Daily Photo.

 

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Berges de la Seine

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TAKE BACK THE SEINE

banks of the seine, paris, floating cinema

Sketch of a proposed floating cinema on the Left Bank of the Seine, where the mayor wants to close a stretch of the highway to traffic.

One of the biggest urban-planning disasters in Paris’s history – along with the Forum des Halles and the Tour Montparnasse – was the building of highways along both the Right and Left Banks of the Seine in the 1960s, a project that destroyed the tranquility and environment of one of the city’s greatest treasures and one of Unesco’s 100 World Heritage Sites. Finally, that crime against Paris is about to be partially rectified. Last week, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë announced a plan to take the Seine back from the noisy, polluting cars that zoom along its banks – or sit in traffic jams there.

On the Right Bank, at least five traffic lights will be installed and the sidewalks widened in some places to slow down the automobiles. A café-on-a-barge will float on the Seine near the Hôtel de Ville.

On the Left Bank, the transformation will be far more spectacular. The Seine-side road will be completely auto-free between the Pont de l’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay (a rather short 2-kilometer stretch, but better than nothing), replaced by walking and cycling lanes, gardens, greenhouses and sports facilities. Artificial island parks will float on the river near the Port des Invalides, while a nightclub on a boat will be located near the Pont Alexandre III. Best of all, a floating cinema screen will be set up near the Musée d’Orsay, with bleachers on the riverbank. How cool is that?

This is part of the mayor’s overall plan to discourage the use of autos in Paris. The beauty of the project is that it is not one of those Pharaonic schemes French politicians love; the idea is to use easy-to-install infrastructure with a relatively low cost (the estimated budget is €40 million) that can be changed or moved if necessary. The city estimates that the work could be completed in two years.

As with all such projects, it remains to be seen how much of this will actually be realized (remember when former Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi promised to ban automobile traffic on the Place de la Concorde?). It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

For more details and images, visit the city’s Web site.