Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. AFP
Car traffic will be drastically reduced in the heart of Paris next year under a plan by the city's mayor, the latest step in her goal of greening one of the densest urban landscapes in Europe.
Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist politician who is eyeing a bid for the presidency next year, announced a public consultation on the project Wednesday that will last until October.
It would ban most vehicles from the Paris Centre district, formerly the first four arrondissements of the capital that includes the two islands on the Seine river and the winding narrow streets of the Marais.
The zone would also extend across a large swath of the historic Left Bank and its Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood, the chic haunt of Paris' intellectual elite.
"This isn't about eliminating all traffic" and there is no plan for a congestion charge, said David Belliard, the Greens deputy mayor in charge of transport.
"Residents, vehicles for the disabled, taxis, professionals and shop owners will still be able to enter," he said.
Officials have not yet decided if motorcycles or tourist buses will be allowed inside a zone that encompasses landmarks such as Notre-Dame cathedral and the Louvre museum.
Hidalgo easily won re-election last year with promises of tackling pollution by building new bus and cycle lanes and reclaiming many roads for pedestrians, including the expressways on the banks of the Seine.
But critics accuse her of anti-car policies that cause huge traffic headaches for residents as well as millions of people living in suburbs with no viable public transport options for getting to work in the city.
Aurelien Veron, a rightwing opponent on the city council, denounced the public consultation as a "foregone conclusion," saying Hidalgo "is basically asking drivers if they want to be eaten roasted or boiled."