Half of the world’s roundabouts are in France, and the city of Paris wants to fix seven of them so they’re friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians.
The scheme is called Réinventons nos Places, or “reinventing our plazas,” and the plazas in question are Bastille, Fêtes, Gambetta, Italie, Madeleine, Nation, and Panthéon, all of which are beautiful and frustrating in almost equal measure. These large spaces, built for a world of pedestrians and carriages, are almost unusable by pedestrians today because of traffic. Take a look at Place de la Nation, below, where eleven streets meet one ring-shaped road. Getting from one side to the other means crossing every one of the streets that radiate from the main circle.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to reclaim these urban spaces from traffic, and the city of Paris is currently soliciting ideas from citizens. In 2011, the Place de la République was similarly repurposed, with sections pedestrianized and bike infrastructure added.
Like many large European cities, Paris wants to replace a good chunk of car journeys with bike journeys, with a plan to triple the number of bike trips from 5% to 15%, adding bike lanes and bike parking, and dropping the speed limit to 18 mph on many roads.
The key will be in the implementation, though. I’m a cyclist, and although I can drive (I used to drive a delivery van), I haven’t owned a car for many years. I’m the kind of person that thinks that cities should be car free. Clearly that’s impractical today, but the political climate is shifting. Now, the focus seems to be on getting people around the city, instead of getting cars around the city. It’s a small difference, and one which can still include cars, but it is a difference that could improve the quality of life for city dwellers. And that, these days, is most people.