What did Paris's first car-free day look like?

Empty streets outside the Palais Garnier opera house. Image: Getty.

On Sunday, Paris celebrated its first car-free day. 

Paris's Mayor, Ann Hidalgo, held the day without cars in response to the city's huge amounts of traffic, high pollution levels (in March, the city was briefly the most polluted city in the world) and a very high proportion of diesel cars, which are particularly polluting in stop-start city traffic. This single day off from cars and their smog, organised at the suggestion of the Paris Without Cars collective, is just the beginning: Hidalgo hopes to rid the centre of the city of diesel vehicles by 2020 and establish permanent car-free routes along the river Seine. 

This weekend's car-free day actually only covered around a third of the city, while car use was "strongly discouraged" in other areas. Groups of skateboarders and cyclists toured the city, and people walked and cycled down the Champs-Élysées in celebration of its unusual emptiness: 

Mayor Hidalgo (C) was joined by the mayor of Bristol George Ferguson (L), the mayor of Brussels Yvan Mayeur (3rd L), the mayor of Sao Paulo Fernando Haddad (4th L) and his wife Ana Estela (R): 

These children cycled through the streets without fear of cars:

Overall, things looked very peaceful:

What a day.

All images: Getty.


What we're reading: Understanding how the coronavirus spreads in public spaces

Risk assessment: It’s a holiday weekend in the US and UK, and where the weather is nice, people will surely want to go out. Vox has a handy chart for understanding the risks of coronavirus in different settings.

Covid-proofing: Social distancing has proven to be an effective way to slow the coronavirus, but it’s an emergency method that can’t stay in place forever. In order to get the economy going again, offices, restaurants and entertainment venues will need a dramatic overhaul. The Atlantic shares ideas to make that happen.

Vacation ghost town: With no indication of when people can safely travel again, resort towns are bracing for a summer unlike any other. CityLab reports that this weekend is the start of a critical period for vacation hotspots, but residents and businesses there expect tough times ahead.