Paris Leads ‘Vision Zero’ New York With Pedestrianized City Center

A big part of central Paris won't have cars, under a new plan. French speakers will notice that the map refers to the existing Sunday car-free hours. This is the scheme that would be expanded under the mayor's plan. Photo: City of Paris
A big part of central Paris won't have cars, under a new plan. French speakers will notice that the map refers to the existing Sunday car-free hours. This is the scheme that would be expanded under the mayor's plan. Photo: City of Paris

Yet another European city — this time, Paris — is showing us just how narrow Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero really is.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced a plan to pedestrianize “the center of the French capital, which includes landmarks such as Notre Dame Cathedral,” the BBC reports on Thursday.

The plans would severely restrict traffic in the center arrondissements of the City of Light, with electric shuttles transporting people, AFP reported. Hidalgo is spinning it as a necessary move to reduce air pollution, but said it was residents who called for the pedestrianization, not the city government.

The move follows a similar effort in London and Madrid, leading many to wonder why New York does not eliminate cars in a small area, such as south of Chambers Street.

An email to City Hall early on Thursday was not immediately returned. Streetsblog will update this story upon receipt.

  • Zach Katz

    Unfortunately, they’re not just going to *do* it. But it could happen! People just need to get EXCITED about it. Put up thousands of posters that say PEDESTRIANIZE LOWER MANHATTAN! Hold rallies! Start a movement!

  • Pietro Gambadilegno

    The poster on top says: “the street is yours every first Sunday of the month.” Is this a more limited plan than the article implies?

  • AnoNYC

    Aren’t there plans to expand the car-free zone on Wall St? Such a painfully slow timeline. Just pedestrianise the whole financial district, municipal vehicles only.

  • kevd

    from the linked article, the current system limits traffic in the area 1 sunday a month.
    Paris will be change that to every day in 2020.

  • motorock

    Funny how you guys look towards Europe for traffic solutions but I don’t see articles that promote one thing that almost all European cities do that has helped the traffic and mobility issue- encourage motorcycles, scooters, ebikes and other powered two wheelers. Why this selective myopic vision of a congestion free city? Why not write about the various advantages of shifting to powered two wheelers and how it should be encouraged through change in laws and other incentives. This cherry picking makes you guys just as bad as those people who you are calling out.

  • ride_it_like_you_stole_it

    I’ve always thought motorcycles and scooters are great for reducing congestion and freeing up parking. Not so good on air quality though unless they are electric. Has Streetsblog been anti-motos? I think they’ve been silent on that topic.

  • Daphna

    It would be a problem to allow municipal vehicles only in pedestrianized areas. Government workers expect to be able to park for free where they work and be given unspoken courtesy from the police to not be ticketed for their illegal parking. The NYPD accommodate this expectation that government workers get to park illegally for free without consequences because the NYPD want that for themselves. The whole area around 1 Police Plaza is closed to motor vehicle traffic for about 4 blocks out in each direction (north, south, east and west). But instead of being a beautiful car-free area with great space for pedestrians and cyclists, it is giant (free!) parking lot for government workers and pedestrians and cyclists have almost no space; it is difficult to navigate with NYPD’s gates that they will open for vehicles, but not for cyclists, forcing cyclists to illegally bike on sidewalks as there is no alternative. Since NYPD deems that there can be no cars safely in this entire area, then there really should be no cars. But instead it is a giant free municipal parking lot.

  • chandru

    Perhaps you are young. As an ex-regular cyclist myself, who has reached the age of being uncertain on a bike, I say 2-wheelers help, but cannot be the (only) solution. Plenty of others, young and old are uncomfortable with bikes. What about young children?

    That said, car-free zones are a great idea. Manhattan is uniquely suited to having smaller zones setup like this; you’d have to go one or two blocks to get to a bus or car street.

    As the article notes, Hidalgo has deployed buses to move people in the ped zones–an excellent idea. Can it happen here? In your dreams.

  • AnoNYC

    I mean city owned, not personal vehicles.

  • AnoNYC

    Motorcycles in NYC though are not legally allowed to lane split (though commonplace), which is stupid. And they also never caught on big here because of our on-street parking regulations, since most people live in older multi-unit housing.

    To be honest the line between electric bicycle and motorcycle is getting pretty blurry right now though. It used to be that human-powered: bicycle, motor-powered: motorcycle. No longer the case.

  • Frank Kotter

    Although I agree with some of your assessment about the advantages of two wheel travel, you are off on its causation, I think.

    Outside of *some* European countries providing much better bicycle infrastructure I can’t the only thing that could be seen as supporting two wheel travel is the price of gasoline. It is between three to six times as expensive in all of Europe – this leads to people looking for ways to use less, like motorcycles and ‘mofas’.

    For example, in most of the south of Europe, where this form of travel is most popular, bicycle infrastructure is terrible.

  • Frank Kotter

    Lane splitting in a dense urban environment is a shit-show. In Paris last week, from a walk from downtown to ‘Nord’, I witnessed 3 (!) crashes from exactly this action. One was with a pedestrian and can say it ruined her month, if not more….

  • George Joseph Lane

    “Plenty of others, young and old are uncomfortable with bikes. What about young children?”

    You need to go to the Netherlands.

  • AnoNYC

    Motorcyclists already lane split here regardless of the law. And bicyclists are allowed to lane split.

    If the pedestrian was struck, then they crossed through stopped traffic at an unexpected location without bothering to look.

    Lane splitting is commonplace for two-wheelers globally.

  • AnoNYC

    People are pushing but it’s happening so slowly citywide.

    The financial district is probably the best bet in the next decade for a wide scale ban on personal automobiles.

    https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/05/15/downtown-alliance-calls-for-a-pedestrianized-financial-district/

    https://www.scribd.com/document/379337706/stock-exchange-district-report

    Once congestion pricing is implemented, maybe we’ll see a more rapid transformation.

  • motorock

    Age has nothing to do with this-i know 70/80 year olds who use a motorcycle everyday for their commute. My position is that Two wheelers should be there as an option that people can take, not the only one. No one is forcing everyone to take it… It’s for those who can and want to. Currently they are been discouraged which is the problem.

  • Frank Kotter

    She was hit at a zebra crossing which was full of stationary cars. Sure, you can blame one party or the other but the fact is that this shit happens when you lane split in urban environments and it’s not a ‘solution’, it’s a result of a system beyond its capacity and again its the lowest on the totem who pays the price.

  • motorock

    Ha! Perhaps you should study (I have studied quite a few of them) all the traffic plans in European cities that aim to reduce congestion but help people be mobile in addition to public transport. That includes bicycles and other powered two wheelers as well. Motorcycles are not massively dirty or two stroke only and they are actually classified as “green vehicles”in a few plans and some impose emission norms( Euro 3/4/5) on them as well. Just shows how misinformed you are. Also, I drove in Europe last year and did not find it any more expensive than here in NYC…they are just better drivers.
    Also pay particular attention to the other incentives governments give PTWs in addition to exemption from tolls. And yes, it could be a economic thing as well because those governments recognize that not everyone can afford to live near a subway or afford car prices and tolls-so what’s wrong with giving those folks a alternative that is cheap and reliable? Mostly, PTWs are encouraged because they reduce congestion and pollution-proven scientifically and through observed research as well.
    Maybe you are biased against motos as many are but doesn’t take away what a great alternative PTWs are as every European city has recognized. I am all for pedestrianized places and congestion pricing but I also have a wider understanding of the diverse needs of different segments of people-something this site and policy makers (including the NY decision makers I have spoken with) seen to be lacking or maybe just being in denial of. Instead of shutting down proven smart solutions, I think there should be a more informed discussion.

  • motorock

    Compared to cars, the newer motorcycles (Euro 4 & above) are better on air quality too (have always been lower on GHGs though)- one of the reasons is because they spend less time on the road as they can cut through congestion. Streetsblog talks a lot of other things but never delves into this alternative that can give a lot of people mobility without being expensive and without the govt having to set up special lanes etc- just needs some change in laws like allowing lane splitting, more free parking etc. It is one of the most cost-effective, practical and reliable alternative mode of transport that requires least effort to encourage!

  • motorock

    yes..but NYC bans class 3 ebikes or anything that goes above 20mph. And they target the delivery folks who are trying to make a living- despite no proof that they cause any accidents. Enforcement seems to have followed the complaint of some rich white guy from the UWS. SMH
    I would love to have a ebike which has a good range, is portable (or the battery is) and can go at least 30mph to make my commute equal to being on a moto- which is usually 20-30 minutes faster than the train (as I experience again today). Plus, the main downside on a ebike for me is that I cant go grocery shopping on it as much as I can on the moto. Two wheels are also massive fun- a lot of people hate them for whatever reason and don’t want to think about it because of this bias. We are trying to get the idea out to policy makers and other organizations (spoke to the governor’s office and some councilmembers too) – so stay posted and please support anything you that you hear in this regard. Wished Streetsblog would do as much research to support it as well.

  • motorock

    As unfortunate as it is, this is anecdotal and forgive me if I am skeptical about this. I was in Paris and Barcelona for two weeks and did not see a single incident like this because of lane splitting. Also, actual stats do not support this thesis. In fact, lane splitting has shown to be safer for the biker and the surrounding traffic. Stats actually show the cyclists crash with peds more…so do yo want to ban cyclists now?

  • It is all about less cars. From a safety standpoint, motorcycles, moped etc have a very hic ras rate for themselves and pedestrians. Unless there is a permit system with drivers education, mobility will improve but vision Zero will get worse.

  • AnoNYC

    If she was hit at the pedestrian crossing; either the motorcyclist ran the light/stop sign, or she did. Lane splitting doesn’t have anything to do with that.

    And lane splitting is perfectly fine. Motorcyclists and bicyclists do it every day globally.

  • AnoNYC

    Agreed. I was in Paris in the late summer, and like New York, pedestrians are aware of two-wheelers traveling between stopped vehicles.

    If you walk between stopped cars at an unexpected location without looking and get hit, that’s on you.

  • AnoNYC

    You gotta do what you gotta do. The city is failing big time in terms of mobility.

    Up here in the Bronx I see more ~20+ throttle controlled eBikes and electric scooters than regular bicycles nowadays. I’ve even seen small Grom-like electric motorcycles gaining traction.

    NYPD was cracking down in Manhattan South, Queens West, and Brooklyn North, but the rest of the city doesn’t see much bicycle enforcement. Even then, they targeted delivery workers like you mentioned. And speed wasn’t the motivation for harassment, it was riding an ebike in general as a delivery worker through specific sporadic checkpoints. Now that the pedal assist bikes are authorized, that harassment may have slowed. I’ve personally never passed an ebike checkpoint, and considering their acquisitions they are pretty rare.

    And you might want to try a 48v/1000w cargo ebike for grocery hauls if you want more space. You can just buy one from China or build your own and make it as fast as you want. You should be able to hit ~30 MPH.

  • AnoNYC

    The future of urban mobility, especially in dense cities, is a dramatic increase in electric personal mobility devices like eBikes, escooters, emotorcycles, eskateboards, and emonowheels.

    The cheaper they get, the more commonplace they will become. The current speeds and ranges are sufficient for most inner-city trips.

  • motorock

    I personally felt hat the pedestrians in Paris and Barcelona were even more aware of traffic and lane splitters than in NYC where peds are busy looking at their phones…

  • Frank Kotter

    Again, how does a city ‘encourage’ two wheel motorized users as you claim?

  • Frank Kotter

    ‘I’m skeptical of your anecdote. Now settle in and listen to my annrcdote’

    Well played.

  • motorock

    Yeah – why don’t you show us an official stat where lane splitting leads to more crashes with peds- in Paris specifically. The skepticism is because your comments, and I may perhaps be wrong, already seem biased against motos.
    Studies have proven lane-splitting helpful & safer in many ways and not causing accidents. Everyone else in the world except Americans lane split- and there are no bodies piling up there that govts felt the need to stop that practice. This has got to do more with mentality than facts.

  • motorock

    That’s why Vision Zero needs to promote safety for motos which leads to safety of bikers, of peds and of both from cars. I believe there are more car-peds incidents than motos, even proportionately.

  • Joe R.

    I mostly agree. However, the reality is many streets will never get bicycle infrastructure. That means these electric mobility devices must mix with car traffic. A second reality is travel distances in the outer boroughs are generally long enough to benefit from high speeds. As such, I would eventually like the law changed so e-bikes with a top speed of 30 mph or less are treated the same as regular bikes from a legal standpoint.

  • Joe R.

    Use trikes, both pedal-powered and electric. Problem solved.

  • Frank Kotter

    I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Until now, you have stated that ‘the data says…’ while providing none and countering anecdote with another all the while complain about anecdotes.

    Ok, now for the meat and potatoes: We are way closer on this issue than our exchange would indicate. Yes, two wheels are better than four in an urban environment. Yes, two wheels can carry more people. Yes, two wheels are often ignored by the mass majority of urban but especially ‘transportation’ planners. Because, let’s face it: efficiency for the consumer equals less money for those selling things. For the automobile and highway lobby, two wheels is bad, a car is good, a light truck is better and a luxury SUV is best.

    Where I have a problem is that you claim Europe is somehow far ahead because they ‘promote two wheeled motorized vehicles’ by allowing lane splitting ( this is the only tangable example of ‘promotion’ I can tease out of your comments, correct me if I’m wrong) but this is simply false. Additionallly it is not a panacea, it is dangerous and intimidating to pedestrians (again, I would love to see the data that says otherwise) and really the result of a poorly planned and managed system rather than a indication of success.

    Adieu Aus Berlin (presently)

    Frank

  • motorock

    You brought up the issue of increased pedestrian crashes because of lane-splitting so it would be great if you had data to back that up. The crash stats of cars and pedestrians and other vehicles show that the numbers are more for the normal cars (even buses) as compared to motorbikes. Google is your friend. I haven’t found any stat that said otherwise so I would like you to find me one that said as much- nothing anecdotal about it. UC Berkeley’s report is also online- it looked at lane-splitting specifically and found it safer for motorcyclists and helpful in reducing crashes with automobiles.

    The only way a ped is going to get hit by a lane-spliting motorcycle is if the ped is walking through moving traffic- already a dangerous and inappropriate way to navigate traffic. In India and Asian countries, even these “brave” peds do not necessarily get hit by the millions of lane-splitting motorcyclists any more than under other circumstances…

    If lane-splitting were so very dangerous as you’d like to think, they would have definitely banned it as European cities are very concerned about safety of all road users including peds as compared to US ones. Just because you feel threatened by these “dangerous lanesplitting motorcyclists” doesn’t mean everyone does- in fact, most of the world doesn’t feel threatened or feel the need to complain about non-events as “terrifying close calls”- only in good ol’ America.

    For some reason, my other post has been “pending” where I write down all the ways to encourage PTWs in response to your excellent question. Lane-splitting is an important part but not the only one. Other things that European countries do includes free/dedicated parking spots (including sidewalks in some cities), exemption from all tolls, exemption from being restricted access to certain low emission zones and a graded licensing system. Things some US cities already do is free parking for PTWs in truck loading zones (DC) or meters (Austin), subsidized/free PTW training (NJ, PA) and ban on motorcycle profiling (federal level) which has led to increased racism and other social problems at the same time.

    Maybe my other post will be published but maybe Strreetsblog is blocking it for some reason- maybe it made too much sense…

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