The Greening of Paris Makes Its Mayor More Than a Few Enemies

PARIS — All over Paris, streets have been dug up and reduce in two, and outdated paving stones overturned to construct dozens of miles of bike lanes. A significant city freeway has been closed to automobiles and turned over to pedestrians. Paris is readying feverishly for an emergency that, within the minds of the town and its mayor, is already right here.

The scorching summer time blasted Parisians off the streets and turned the town into an eerie dystopia of what could lie forward. The brutal warmth eliminated any doubt, if there was one, in Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s thoughts: Climate change has arrived.

Even earlier than July’s report temperatures — 42 levels Celsius, or 107.6 Fahrenheit — Ms. Hidalgo spent the final 5 years as mayor making an attempt to remodel the millennial metropolis into a greener model of itself.

Along the way in which, Ms. Hidalgo, who’s up for re-election subsequent 12 months, has received supporters for her ahead considering, and earned hundreds of enemies for the inevitable disruption her plans have created.

But she has positioned herself prominently among the many mayors of the world’s premier capitals as an advocate for what she payments as a new, and essential, variety of city panorama.

Paris in the present day is like a large building web site. By the tip of the summer time greater than eight,000 tasks, most non-public however all accredited by the town, had been underway, with historic squares like Madeleine, Bastille and Nation remodeled to make them extra pleasant to pedestrians.

Ugly craters within the asphalt sign work on grid, the city heating system for giant buildings, the subway and regional transport, and of course the town’s miles of protected bike lanes.

Visitors and residents alike can now glide for miles alongside the river banks on a bike, shielded from the automobiles by granite separators, or all the way in which throughout the town, from Concorde to Bastille, beating the gridlocked visitors. Ms. Hidalgo is aiming for greater than 600 miles of bike lanes by subsequent 12 months, up from round 400 when she began.

As monotonous green-gray steel separators, shielding the tasks, have sprouted throughout Paris, the inconveniences have been accompanied by an offended refrain of groans from hapless motorists.

The environmental outcomes are ambiguous at greatest. There had been round 5 days with elevated ozone ranges, for example, in 2014, the 12 months Ms. Hidalgo took over; in 2018 there have been from 15 to 22, relying on which half of the town you had been in.

“There are fewer cars, but there is more congestion, and that can affect pollution levels,” mentioned Paul Lecroart, an city planning skilled on the Paris regional planning company.

But the fights the Spanish-born mayor has already taken on and received show that she has no intention of backing down.

“There’s been a very violent reaction at times,” Ms. Hidalgo mentioned, smiling barely in an interview in her cavernous workplace on the grandiose Hôtel de Ville, the City Hall.

“Part of it has to do with being a woman,’’ said Ms. Hidalgo, the daughter of working-class immigrants from Spain. ‘‘And being a woman that wants to reduce the number of cars meant that I upset lots of men. Two-thirds of public transport users are women.”

The thought of Ms. Hidalgo, a former office inspector on the French labor ministry who labored her manner up the political hierarchy, is straightforward. To assist safe an unsure local weather future, Paris should undertaking itself again into the previous — a previous with fewer vehicles.

“What we’ve undertaken is a whole program of adaptation, of putting nature back in this city,” she mentioned. “We’re trying to build this around the individual. But change is difficult.”

“We can’t live as before,’’ Ms. Hidalgo added. ‘‘There’s been an acceleration in climate change.”

She has declared conflict on automobiles. Every cursing motorist who seeks to navigate the impediment course of Parisian streets needs she had by no means been elected. Don’t point out her identify to taxi drivers.

“She’s a hysteric,” mentioned Hamza Hansal, who owns a fleet of 10 cabs, pausing subsequent to one more metropolis building web site on the Place des Fêtes within the working-class 19th Arrondissement. “Nothing but bicycle lanes and construction sites. Total chaos. Such BS. Traffic jams 24/7.”

Other critics, notably on the precise, accuse the Socialist mayor of crazed environmental experimentation on the expense of the town’s inhabitants.

“She’s put us in debt, just to make the BoBos happy,” mentioned Mr. Hansal, utilizing French slang for the bourgeois bohemians, the environmentally acutely aware center class that’s the mayor’s base.

Such responses replicate a widespread impression that preventing local weather change has grow to be an elitist concern. But folks in wealthier suburbs — who personal automobiles — have additionally been up in arms. The French automobile homeowners’ affiliation, livid, revealed Ms. Hidalgo’s workplace quantity and invited motorists to flood it with calls.

But the town itself has seen a steep drop in automobile possession, from 60 % of households in 2001, to 35 % in the present day. Paris, in the meantime, has risen within the list of bike-friendly cities to eighth place from 17th since 2015.

As elections approach next year, Ms. Hidalgo, a relatively solid Socialist in a party otherwise headed for extinction, holds a substantial lead in polling over her nearest rival, Benjamin Griveaux, the candidate of President Emmanuel Macron’s political movement.

Around the Place des Fêtes in the 19th Arrondissement, there were few neutral parties among Parisians shopping at the outdoor market. But the mayor’s supporters outnumbered the critics in a random sampling.

“On cars, she’s pretty tough,” said Darnaud Guilhem, a professional gardener. “But I think she’s right. She’s causing some teeth-gnashing. But Paris, with all this traffic, has become nearly unlivable.”

“She’s going in the right direction,” he said. “Pretty farsighted.”

One of the mayor’s most contested and controversial steps was to shut down parts of the 42-year-old highway along the Right Bank of the Seine and turn it into a park.

The long riverside expanse is now jammed with partying youth on warm nights, and is becoming, in terms of race and class, one of the most integrated spots in the city.

“She had everybody against her on that,” said Corinne Lepage, a former French environment minister. “It was a very big symbolic victory.”

“She’s got a lot of courage,” Ms. Lepage added. “Now, nobody even thinks about putting cars back on there. That was a real reconquest of urban space.”

Now Ms. Hidalgo is planning “urban forests,” clumps of trees on the river bank and in front of the some of the city’s most iconic spots, like the Opera Garnier, the Hôtel de Ville and the Gare de Lyon train station.

A top official has written a policy note detailing a possible green corridor up and down the city if she is elected to a second term.

Leo Fauconnet, an urban expert with the Paris region’s planning agency, gave Ms. Hidalgo credit. “We’ve got a proactive policy, compared to other cities in the world,” he said.

But hard-core environmentalists, growing in political clout in France with the surge of the Green party, are not persuaded.

“Environmental politics is about limiting the damage,” said Jacques Boutault, the Green mayor of Paris’s central Second Arrondissement. ‘‘You can’t just allow the concrete to flow, then plant a few trees on the pavement.”

Tougher critics wondered about City Hall’s friendliness toward developers. The mayor’s office “speaks with a double language,” said Antoine Picon, an architectural historian at Harvard. ‘‘Green, yes, but let’s continue to encourage the densification of Paris, in what is already one of the densest cities in the world.’’

“The city has never been as up for sale as it is today,” he said. “The entire city is being transformed into a shopping mall.”

Indeed, the character of much of the city is changing in ways that Ms. Hidalgo has been less forceful in addressing. An unceasing invasion of mass tourism threatens to turn Paris into a vast open-air theme park for the global affluent.

Working families are leaving central areas like the Second Arrondissement, which has lost 10 percent of its population since 2015. Airbnb has created neighborhoods of absentee landlords. The average apartment price per square meter has topped $11,000, making Paris now the world’s third-most expensive city.

Ms. Hidalgo said she was aware of those dangers, too, and was working to mitigate them.

“Paris can’t just be a city for winners,” Ms. Hidalgo said. “The role of politicians is to regulate. And to stop this city from being one only for the winners.”

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