Today in Paris it’s the ‘Journée sans voiture‘. This means that from 11am to 6pm no vehicles (with obvious exceptions) will be allowed in the first, second, third and fourth arrondissements, or in certain tourist spots such as Montmartre, the Canal Saint Martin, the Eiffel Tower and the place de la Bastille.
The ‘Journée sans voiture’ comes ahead of the World Climate Summit, which will take place in Paris in December this year. But though it sounds like a good idea; an opportunity to tackle pollution (albeit for a few hours), reduce noise and encourage people to ‘see Paris differently’, not everyone has taken well to the initiative.
In an article for Le Monde, Olivier Razemon states that out of 2.2 million Parisians, only 200 000 live in the areas concerned and only a third of those people actually own cars. He also argues that at the end of the nineties, Paris and other cities enforced a ‘Journée sans voiture’ every year on September 22, meaning it could fall on any day of the week and motorists really had to adapt.
Le Figaro, on the other hand, presents readers with ideas as to what to do on a Sunday ‘sans voiture’, including parks and art galleries. Give it a few months, though, and you could add shopping to that list. Earlier in the week it was announced that 12 areas of Paris are to be classed as ‘tourist zones’ and shops will soon be able to open on Sundays. This too has sparked a debate.
On the one hand are people who work from Monday to Friday and whose only free day to go to the shops is Saturday – the busiest day. As someone who is used to shopping on a Sunday in the UK, I can tell you that this takes some getting used to. On the other hand are people (including the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo) who fear allowing shops to open on Sundays will further encourage consumerism and detract from collective activities, such as family lunches and walks in the park, that people are used to doing.
But before shops do open on Sundays, the reform has to go through the unions. And if there’s one thing France is known for, it’s the potential of its unions to kick up a fuss. So this is one drama that’s not over yet…