Parisians enjoyed an entire "day without cars" this weekend as residents and tourists were persuaded to take up walking, cycling and roller-blading instead. The now-annual initiative aims to leave the streets open for much cleaner forms of transport while also raising awareness to the air pollution crisis Paris – like many other cities – finds itself in.
And people seemed to have a blast.
Sunday marks the third time the French capital has experimented with a car ban – which is officially known as the "Journée Sans Voitures" or "Day Without Cars." But this year has been by far the most ambitious to-date, as officials extended the restriction zone to include much of the major European city.
Ambulances, police cars, buses and taxis were the only vehicles allowed to enter the city between 11am and 6pm (although exceptions were made for emergency situations).
"This initiative requires an enormous amount of preparation," city mayor Anne Hidalgo told Le Parisien, "particularly because this year the zone has been enlarged to the whole of Paris."
The Socialist politician was first elected in 2014 after promising to tackle air pollution, reduce vehicle emissions and improve public transport infrastructure.
"The aim is simply to enjoy the city in a different way," explains Paris city transport official Christophe Najdovski, "It's a day that is meant to be educational, fun and friendly."
Des vélos déguisés en voitures circulent dans Paris. Cela illustre en creux l'un des avantages du vélo : il occupe peu d'espace. pic.twitter.com/t7wvin5DBl— Olivier Razemon (@OlivierRazemon) October 1, 2017
Air pollution in France is believed to kill an estimated 48,000 people each year. Paris' first attempt at a car ban in 2015 saw a 40% drop in the levels of nitrogen oxide, according to Airparif, leading the major's office to plan more vehicle-free days.
"It's nice for the air quality, for enjoying the city, walking around without any noise, without any risk to be run over by a car," one local resident said as he strolled by Place de la Republique.