Sustainable Paris: New City Plan Calls for Fewer Cars, More Plants

Sustainable Paris: New City Plan Calls for Fewer Cars, More Plants

Paris plans to turn its famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées into a sustainable pedestrian garden.

The 1.9km avenue connects popular landmarks the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde and is one of the most famous commercial streets in the world.

Construction began in the 1600s, it received the name Champs-Élysées in 1709, and by the start of the 1800s, the promenade was a popular destination for walking, socializing, and picnics.

But today, approximately 64,000 cars use the street daily, and the vast majority of Parisians avoid it where possible due to noise, pollution, overcrowding, and its association with economic protest from the gilets jaunes or yellow vests.

The Champs-Élysées committee — formed of people who live and work in the area — has campaigned for a renovation and redesign of the French capital’s famous street since 2018. 

“The legendary avenue has lost its splendor during the last 30 years,” the Champs-Élysées committee said in a statement. “It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has been hit by several successive crises: the gilets jaunes, strikes, health and economic.”

A proposal for the project created by architectural firm PCA-Stream includes reducing the number of car lanes and increasing space for bicycles, adding new trees for shade and carbon absorption, and adding permeable surfaces to the road and in gardens to help manage excess rainwater.

Sustainable Paris: New City Plan Calls for Fewer Cars, More Plants
Reducing cars and increasing plants would significantly cut the avenue’s carbon footprint.| PCA-Stream.

Sustainable architecture and 15-minute-cities

The pedestrianization and greening of urban areas is increasingly commonplace as a solution to out-of-control carbon emissions, congestion, pollution, and the relative lack of outdoor spaces for many inner-city dwellers around the world. 

Last year, Mayor Anne Hidalgo successfully ran her reelection campaign based on the concept of the 15-minute-city, which would allow Parisian residents to travel from their homes to work and all local amenities with a short bike ride.

Following increased localization during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions, such a reduction in travel could combat both C02 emissions and the ever-expanding urban sprawl. In Paris, in particular, this model would work well alongside plans to ban all non-electric vehicles by 2030, significantly reducing both high emission cars and the causes of daily commutes.

Hidalgo approved the £225 million update to Champs-Élysées for completion before 2030. The plan also includes changes to the Place de la Concorde, including full pedestrianization, which officials expect to be complete before the city hosts the 2024 summer Olympics.

The project is part of the city-wide Reinventing Paris urban renewal project, first launched in 2014, which aims to revitalize the French capital with innovative and sustainable developments.