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Paris Will Create the City's Largest Gardens Around the Eiffel Tower (citylab.com)
129 points by gmck 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 94 comments

I'm continually impressed by the efforts of Parisian politicians to improve their cityscape. (Aside from this, see their removal of motor traffic along the Seine [1] and tightening restrictions on polluting cars [2].) It speaks very well to their fiscal management too that they're able to fund the project through ticket sales, and don't need to levy any new taxes or bonds.

Being a North American resident, it really makes me wonder what it would take to build political will for these types of projects on this side of the ocean. In San Francisco, closing even one part of one street to auto traffic is something that seems to be impossible — even for projects that _should_ be relatively uncontentious like closing some of the highways through Golden Gate Park, making the most pedestrian heavy parts of famous streets like Haight, Castro, or Lombard pedestrian-only, or taking private cars off Market Street. And quite sadly, SF is considered to be a walking-friendly city relative to others on the continent.

It's nice that someone is acting as a guiding light for the rest of the world, especially when it's a city of Paris' fame/importance.


[1] https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2016/09/paris-seine-car-pe...

[2] https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/05/paris-is-bann...

Every time I go abroad, whether it's Europe, Japan, or most other places, I'm always struck by how international cities do such a better job of prioritizing people. Their public spaces are so enjoyable and safe to simply walk around in or bike through. American cities by contrast inevitably prioritize vehicles, even in Manhattan where fewer than 1 in 4 people even owns a car. We could be doing so much better, but simply aren't. No one seems to have the political will to make improvements.

Its because US cities evolved during times of horse carriages and cars. European ones evolved when people were walking all the time

Many Asian cities developed today and still do better than us. I really don't know what to blame other than American culture of individualism over thinking of things for the greater good.

They could start now. For example they could create pedestrian zones but for some reason the American psyche doesn't allow it.

I went to Vegas half a year ago and it was quite awkward walking around... I felt like I was on an airport runway all the time, quite uncomforting

The Vegas Strip is the absolute poster child for the American mentality of prioritizing drivers even when pedestrians radically outnumber them and could make much better (and more profitable) use of the space.

Fremont St (the Old Strip) is much more enjoyable than the new strip now, because they actually had the balls to pedestrianize the entire thing. It's a much more enjoyable experience; you can walk along at ground level, popping into whatever businesses you want while drinking your beer, and at no point do you have to take a bridge over a giant highway wasteland.

Just compare these two photos and consider which you'd rather walk around in as a pedestrian:



I agree America would be improved by better civic planning and better walking and biking facilities.

The traditional complaint I hear is that a random street in Los Angeles looks like https://goo.gl/maps/U7kg8VMV4FtDxQ838 whereas a random street in London looks like https://goo.gl/maps/nR1BJSgYEk5du5CN8 i.e. American cities being built with much lower population density.

That means, if you have one bus stop for every 400 residents or one metro station per 30,000 residents, Los Angeles residents have to walk a hell of a lot further to get to the bus stop or metro station.

I much prefer any given random street in Kyoto, which doesn't have on-street parking. On-street parking is such an eyesore and takes up so much space that could be better used. When on-street parking isn't available, fewer people have cars, and you instead see people biking around everywhere. The end result is a nicer, safer, less-polluting, denser, and healthier city, with better mass transit.

I think it's baloney that "the American psyche doesn't allow it", it's just that disrupting automobile traffic is a huge burden on a ton of people, and given the history of American cities, most people rely on autos as their primary form of transportation.

What ton of people would this be a huge burden for? In other areas in the world this works perfectly fine. You can also make zones where cars have to go very slow if they absolutely have to go to some building. It's a psychological thing.

I know people in this city that live 2 miles from their work. I told me SO who's from Singapore this and she couldn't believe that they'd still drive every day. It may be so in very sprawled areas but it's absolutely due to psychology in the denser cores of cities that existed before the car revolution in the 50's to 60's.

In Singapore I wouldn't walk 2 miles. The metro isn't great either unless you happen to be on the right line, I'd just get a cab or uber, they're very cheap.

I don't know what you're talking about. If you'd rather not walk that far (it isn't far but say it's raining or it's super hot) and that's also a quick bus ride away.

Also, the "metro" is great but it can get crowded like any train can during peak. You gotta qualify what you mean by "unless you happen to be on the right line."

Singapore is always the same temperature -- very humid and 32 degrees during the day. It's never super hot (temperature record is something like 35), but it's always hot and muggy and about to rain.

I used to walk from Sim Lin Square to Raffles, less than 1km, always regretted it.

Clarification would be if you didn't have to change. If it's a 10 minute taxi or 2 metro changes, I know which I do in SG. I commuted from Haugong via taxi for a month rather than take a bus/metro/bus

You think major European cities evolved before horse carriages?

Europe was a bit like this too, but it seems the wave reversed earlier than in the US [0]. A lot of guys on reddit are very annoyed at parking lots etc etc.

[0] not a US citizen but the legend says that cars are too deep into american culture

As a parisian who stayed in SF for a month last year, i can tell you SF is way better for pedestrians than Paris, without any question (except for the hills of course).

Streets are wide enough that you never feel stuck in a line, there are trees everywhere, and the wind from the ocean makes the air feel very clean.

The reason Paris is spending so much energy thinking about its organization is because it is ( and has always been) completely overcrowded with one of the highest population density in the world. For a city that’s almost 2 thousand years old, that’s an extremely difficult problem to tackle.

I've spent months in both Paris and SF. I hate walking around SF, and enjoy walking around Paris, at least in the 1st-8th. Density is a feature for walking. Paris isn't perfect, but also has fewer piles of human excrement in the middle of the sidewalk, and in the cases you don't want to walk, the metro actually is usable. (Manhattan > Paris for walking and subway, but Paris is fine).

>As a parisian who stayed in SF for a month last year, i can tell you SF is way better for pedestrians than Paris, without any question (except for the hills of course).

As a European that has visited both Paris and SF multiple times, Paris wins hands down...

Modern Paris has its problems, but for a pedestrian there's no comparison with SF.

(And let's not even get into the huge homeless/etc problem in SF)

> For a city that’s almost 2 thousand years old

There is really not much of the city that wasn't redone by Haussmann at the end of the 19th century. Even remnants of medieval Paris are few outside of the Marais.

In addition to Haussmann's works, there's also all the reconstruction that had to took place after the Franco-Prussian war and its aftermath.

I feel like replies to this and elsewhere need to qualify where when they talk about a city. It can vary a lot depending on where you live and need to get to on foot.

De-automobiling Paris is a wonderful thing. It's evidently come a long way from the 1960's, but I don't know the history.


This literally looks like any city in America.

Except for the drivers.

London is so much more well kept than Paris for some reason. I went to Paris last year and the city was terrifyingly dirty, with layers of dirt struck on the walls of beautiful buildings, darkened by it. Stuff under construction was also mismanaged and often just poorly done. Scaffolding was very poorly done all around the city. After midnight I felt quite unsafe even in good neighbourhoods. I feel like London as a city is way better kept than Paris

"Terrifyingly dirty"? The simple way they clean the gutters with the fountains on the corners is amazing to me as an American.

Layers of dirt on beautiful buildings? They're several hundred years old.

Felt quite unsafe even in good neighborhoods? I spent all last week there, on foot, at all hours alone and never once felt unsafe. It occurs to me now that maybe that's my male privilege so apologies if that's not the case for you but Paris is the greatest city in the world as far as I'm concerned.

> "Terrifyingly dirty"? The simple way they clean the gutters with the fountains on the corners is amazing to me as an American.

As a Parisian, I can sadly attest that the city is currently disgustingly dirty, that it has been getting worse and worse in the five years since I moved there and that London is indeed a lot cleaner.

Paris suffers from a lot of incivilities, very lax policing, the current mayor puting cleanliness as a non priority and extremely poor supervision of the existing cleaning crews.

It has become such a pain point for Parisian that cleanliness is likely to be the main issue of next year electoral campaign.

I will never forget when I visited Paris as a tourist and in the green patches of grass in front of the Eiffel tower where everyone sets down their blankets and takes selfies is littered with Heineken bottle caps and cigarette butts, it was so uniformly covered in the things that I took a picture of it to remind me. I sort of got that Heineken and smokes are super popular there (at least amongst the touristy areas) but still.

May be the non-touristy areas are also considered dirty by you, but I'm an American, where we treat public places like shit but make sure interiors and the entrances near parking is pretty and the rest of the fucking street is trash since no one other than me apparently walk it. To me, the "grime" I see seems normal if not a little nicer than any city in Ohio.

My city (Oslo, Norway) also has buildings that are centuries old, but they are kept clean. When I went to Stockholm a couple of years back, their old buildings looked dirty because no one seemed to be cleaning them.

I am a man as well. Not sure how that has anything to do with male privilege lol. I still felt very unsafe. All kinds of people walking on the streets at night. Also all the terrorist attacks make it quite uncomforting too. If youve been to London you would be amazed at the condition of the buildings, the way the scaffolding is all done, how stuff under construction looks like. Its probably the most well organized city in the world, and Ive been to NY, Vegas, and all European big cities.

I lived in Paris 9 years from 2000 to 2009, then lived abroad and I currently live in the south of France.

I have to admit that when I went back to Paris 2015, the one thing that struck me was the dirt on the buildings like "le Louvres"'s musueum façade on the Rivoli street. It looked almost black. I actually did not really notice when I lived there, maybe it worsen.

Also I agree with you that Paris is a dirty city and London (at least the tourist areas) is much cleaner. There are a lot of incivilities in France and cleaning services are not known for their efficency.

As for safety, I also agree even if I have read that there has been many knife or moped attacks in London recently.

I've been living there for a while now and as much as there good things about London, being clean is absolutly not one of those... Unless you stay in the really wealthy areas. Where I live the really few public trash are never emptied, their content being scattered by foxes every night and people tends to discard their take away boxes on the pavements and roads where it stays for quite a while.

The stones being dirty is another issue. A lot of white stone will get darken by car pollution really quickly and cleaning those is a never ending process until fossil fuel is completely banned. The speed at which the the stone will get dirty as the the price of cleaning it wihtout damaging it differs a lot depending on the type of stone. I know that around the Loire valley, cleaning tuffeau is a huge pain.

I was about to write the same thing. I lived in Paris and now in London. Often residential streets are disgusting and smelly because people just leave their trash bags there out in the street. Talking about stones, you can easily see the dark layer of pollution on bricks as well.

Talking about the Loire valley, I lived in Tours also and It's true that this is very difficult to clean, if I'm correct the best technique is to use a laser but it's slow and expensive.

At least public spaces are public spaces in Paris. That's something, which definitly cannot be said about London.[1]

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jul/24/revealed-pseu...

Odd, I live in London and visited Paris last year, walking around the centre and saying near Monmartre. Paris certainly didn't feel noticeably unkempt to me.

> It speaks very well to their fiscal management too that they're able to fund the project through ticket sales, and don't need to levy any new taxes or bonds.

Paris' current fiscal management is the worst the city has ever seen. The city's total debt grew from 1B euros in 2001 to 6B in 2018.

American cities across the country are tearing down beltways built in the 50s and 60s. San Francisco tearing down the Embarcadero Highway was the start of the movement.

The issue with such a project is that it's going to (again) increase the traffic jams in the Paris suburban area and push more traffic to the cities surrounding Paris; but since the mayor is only elected by the inhabitants of Paris, she doesn't have to take into account the impact of her decisions on the other cities around Paris.

Most of the traffic in Paris actually comes from Paris : https://www.paris.fr/actualites/a-paris-seuls-22-des-conduct...

That figure is 4 years old and was done only in a very small area right in the middle of Paris, so the figure of 50% of drivers coming from Paris is not very useful.

Please note that this study was ordered Paris city council, which tries to reduce actively the number of cars. The presentation is not totally neutral.

There is something to be said about the democratic process that brought us to this: the Paris administrative division is home to a little over 2 million people, but the city doesn't really end at its administrative borders (75 in this [0] map. The city border stopped tracking the city growth 150 years ago [1].

Most of the people who live in Paris proper enjoy the metro, multiple bike sharing and electrical scooter options, those who can't afford to live within city borders (which outnumber the Parisians 5-to-1) are forced to use the RER (light railway) or private cars.

The effects of the policies that reduce private traffic in the city proper extend far beyond the administrative borders, and the 2016 decision to ban cars from parts of the Seine banks has increased traffic dramatically outside of Paris, but damaging only people who don't vote for the mayor of Paris.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for a reduction in private vehicle use, but I think that a solution can only be found by integrating the whole region in a single administrative division and eliminating this notion of first and second class citizens of Paris.

[0] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Paris_uu...

[1] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Paris_Hi...

> RER (light railway)

RER is heavy rail - Ligne A's trunk shifts 50k pax/hour each direction. With, among other efforts, the extended Ligne E and Ligne 14, there are serious network upgrades on the way to meet the challenge.

Indeed the only people angry at how Paris is taking back public space from cars are those who insist on taking a personal car into Paris, which is puzzling stubbornness where there are so many other options.

I live in Courbevoie, outside Paris and cycle there daily - I couldn't be happier and I don't feel second class at all. Placemaking is the future: cities are living places, not car sinks.

Could you comment on the yellow vests? It feels like those protests specifically centered around that (or at least Macron's way of plugging the wealth tax) and it seemed to have a lot of popular support.

Considering the traffic jams we have around Paris, I'd say the people who take their personal car don't have a choice, with poor/no public transportation on their commute.

Well if you believe this: https://www.paris.fr/actualites/a-paris-seuls-22-des-conduct...

Then most people who drive in Paris 1. don't need to (according to those drivers asked, 72% didn't really "need" to drive) 2. are not poor people (64% CSP+) 3. aren't driving for work (20% were professionals - that's mostly an answer to the sibling comment to yours though) 4. drive within Paris rather than from the periphery (50%)

Now, that study was made by the city of Paris so maybe it's biased, but I'm pretty sure there is some truth in it.

The study was also done on a small number of people (1127) on a very small area right in the middle of Paris and is 4 years old; of the people studied half of them were delivery drivers, reducing further the amount of data.

Are there options for delivery companies, for tradespeople with there trucks and machinery who come to Paris because that is where the jobs are?

Parisians as a whole think of themselves a separate entity from the rest of France.

Who cares if you can't come to Paris by car because there are no buses or because it simply takes too long to get where you want to go via train?

I always thought that most Parisians were snobs, I guess I was correct.

Nothing wrong with the RER. It's large and very cheap. It's the best way to commute into the centre of Paris, really.

All true, but let me add my pet peevee, which is the RER connection to CDG airport.

When you're lucky enough to get a direct train in or out then it's OK. Unfortunately this rarely happens and the alternative is an unpredictable slog in a usually filthy and crowded train, which puckers away and waits for an unspecified time at stations somewhere out in the sticks.

From all major European airports conncetivity to CDG is just about the worst and - in terms of times - the most unpredictable.

And don't get me started on the airport itself, which makes Heathrow shine as a beacon of modernity, efficiency and class.

I agree with your statement. The RER is crap. It's dirty, full of panhandlers and CDG is just about the worst airport I have set foot in. The staff is incompetent and barely speak English.

Now what to about the Birds and Limes.

This looks like a great idea. I think we deperately need to green our cities as much as we can. We need to make them as healthy and pleasant places to live as we can. I hope this is part of a trend.

One of the things that struck me when I visited Paris was what felt like a lack of green spaces that you could actually enjoy. I find London much more pleasant because there are so many more parks you could go to cool off.

I enjoyed my visit to Paris, but I didn't particulalry like most of the city itself, it was clogged with traffic and was stifflingly hot. I can understand why so many Parisians try to get away from the city during the summer. Most of it certainly didn't feel particularly "romantic".

One park we went to had "keep off the grass" signs everywhere, so everyone was crammed into one strip of grass. It wasn't like the off-limit parts were particulalry special or anything, just grass with a few poorly tended flower, it just seemed to be an attitude of "look but don't touch". It was hot, dry and dusty. The London parks on the other hand are much more inviting to me, often less formal, geared towards people actually spending time in them, having a picnic/BBQ or playing games. And with the congestion charging, the traffic does seem to have improved a lot.

Of couse, not being a Parisian I might have just missed all the hidden parks, but we tried hard to find pleasant places, but struggled.

> Of couse, not being a Parisian I might have just missed all the hidden parks

Probably not that much, you can pick it up through google maps: Paris has large parks & forests outside the city (boulogne, vincennes, meudon, …) but only a few very small parks within city limits (the largest green space is the Père-Lachaise cemetery), nothing like Regent's or Hyde's.

It's really flagrant using the satellite view at about the same zoom level (using the scale), it's as if london had no major park closer to city center than Hampstead (though both boulogne and vincennes are quite a bit larger than Hampstead, they're on the same scale as Richmond Park).

> only a few very small parks within city limits (the largest green space is the Père-Lachaise cemetery)

It might be a detail, but the two large parks (Boulogne and Vincennes) are within the city limits.

Also I don't know London very well, but from Google Maps I see almost no greenery in the center, while Paris' parks are maybe smaller but much more evenly distributed throughout the city.

> I don't know London very well, but from Google Maps I see almost no greenery in the center

Are you joking?

Regent's, Hyde, Kensington, Green, St James, Battersea, Burgess, Kennington, Coram's, Russel Square, Lincoln's Inn...

Look at all the green areas on the map.


You have to compare at the same scale though:

Paris: https://www.google.fr/maps/@48.85615,2.3306852,14z / https://www.google.fr/maps/@48.862458,2.3322563,12.75z

London: https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5160429,-0.1466301,14z / https://www.google.fr/maps/@51.5184651,-0.1436204,12.75z

The parks in London just look larger and fewer, not very evenly distributed, to me.

London has over three times the green space of Paris.


I've also found what must be the most well-hidden park in all Paris, the Atlantic Garden, above the Montparnasse train station, with apartment buildings on three sides and the entrance as far as possible from the main exit of the train station.

Well, good to know I didn't miss anything :)

It's one of the things I really appreciate when I go to London, there's always a park within walking distance or a short bus ride/tube trip.

From the last paragraph in the article "But perhaps the most striking element of the tower makeover is how it fits into a bigger story: the ongoing campaign to reclaim Paris from private motor vehicles" for some reason this randomly reminded me of a quote from Steve Jobs about the Segway when it launched predicting they would 'build cities around it' (ref: http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/ptech/12/03/scooter.unveiling/T... ) Large cities starting to ban cars in the city center might finally be that opportunity for Segway like devices to really flourish (not to mention powered and unpowered scooters, bicycles, skateboards, etc).

The Segway was the Apple Newton of it's time - the right idea but too early for all the pieces to be in place. I feel that all the dockless scooters and bikes that are becoming so popular (despite their controversy) have a good chance of remaking a lot of cities.

> The Segway was the Apple Newton of it's time - the right idea but too early for all the pieces to be in place.

Not that great an idea though, because of its width low on the ground it's quite hostile to sharing space with others, much more so than a bike or a scooter.

Powered scooters had just been banned, so I don't think it's in the current plans of the city.

What was banned is using them on sidewalks and leaving them in non-designated spaces. Using an electric scooter on a biking lane is completely fine, and you can also operate a scooter-sharing company if you can agree with the city on designated spaces (that are being built now).

Bit of a tip for anyone thinking of visiting Paris who is sad they won't get to go in Notre Dame, head up the hill from Montmartre to the Basillica Sacré-Cœur. While it's not as old or as well known, it was far more interesting to me. However that might just be because I've been to endless cathedrals/abbeys in the UK and so ND was just more of the same.

Sacré-Cœur is well worth the walk, and benefits from being up the hill, away from the traffic, and surrounded by greenery. Montmartre is definitely one of the nicer parts of Paris. I could have happily skipped most of the rest of the city, but MM was worth a wonder round.

Agreed - stayed in Montmartre last year and the area around Sacre-Coeur is a gem.

I wish them luck. The Eiffel Tower is quite a place to visit, and it's true that the road traffic in the area diminishes it. Paris has some very nice gardens already, but in such a built-up city it's surely a benefit if they can create one more. And while there always seems to be a great party atmosphere in the good viewing spots for the light show, making them less concrete and more park seems likely to improve that too.

Sadly, the area has also been diminished in recent years by all the security around the tower itself. While understandable given actual violence that has occurred there in the past, and even with efficient and professional security staff doing the checks, it can still feel like going into some sort of secure facility more than enjoying a world-famous landmark these days. If the redesign could also reduce the visual impact of the security measures, that would be a bonus.

It's odd very few people talk about the security.

That's what striked me the most a few years ago when I finally decided to go near the Eiffel Tower: when I was young, I remember going there and just going under the Eiffel Tower to sight-see. Nowadays, the security checkpoint put me off doing that, and the high transparent walls make the place feel like an enclave where I don't belong and should just peek from outside.

I visited the tower as a kid, before all the security theater was put in place. Visiting again last year was a very depressing experience, I have to say.

You really don't find being pat down by a security officer of your own gender to contribute to a sense of romance and idealism??

I have never personally had a problem with the security staff at any visitor attraction in Paris. They have always been perfectly polite and professional, and the screening was generally far less intrusive and much quicker than the security theatre we see all too often elsewhere.

I just find it regrettable that the whole area around the base of the tower looks like a fortress these days. If they can move away from that feeling as part of this project, perhaps relocating essential access control measures underground as much as possible, that would be a pleasant improvement.

I'm not sure what gender has to do with it?

I love those plans. The Eiffel Tower is so splendid that I never realized until reading this article that I felt uneasy with the surrounding area. Bad feng shui or whatever. This brings the Tower’s environment into better harmony with the structure itself.

I visited Paris last year and had a lovely time. I think I'll definitely want to go back to visit this. It look s splendid

Hopefully this park will be full of plants and grass rather than gravel like the other parks in Paris.

I don't know why you've been downvoted, but that is a spot on description. I found parks in Paris to be dusty and dry, and frankly not particularly pleasant.

Compared to having a picnic in London, Paris' parks seemed really not designed for enjoyment, they seemed to be more about walking around and looking.

It's been a couple years, but when I was in Paris last, the area around the Eifel Tower was swarmed with pickpockets, people trying to sign you up for scammy petitions, and furtive junk souvenir sellers. Combined with the heavy paramilitary police presence, swaggering around with submachineguns, it wasn't very inviting.

This is literally any tourist attraction in any city. I agree it sucks but it comes with the terrain.

Out of cities I've been, Paris was far and away the worst. I don't see this in Berlin, or Amsterdam, or Boston, or Washington. It's the kind of scene I'd expect in the Caribbean.

ITT: any comment criticising Paris getting downvoted.

I am french, I lived in Paris for 2 years, it was in the center and I never want to live there again.

I don't blame you. Not that I ever want to live in London, but central Paris just wasn't somewhere I'd ever even consider living in.

Aka "security".

they should put up fruit and berry trees

Paris actually used to be beautiful, now it is bland and boring without soul. Why did people rave about its beauty in the 1800s and early 1900s? Perhaps you'd be able to answer that question yourself if you looked up all the gorgeous buildings that used to exist in Paris and around the Eiffel Tower that are now nonexistent.

An often under reported fact about paris is that it lies in one of the ugliest regions of France. The 100 km radius around Paris is so stunningly depressing that Parisians end up going weekend trips to Normandy. "Au royaume des aveugles, le roi est borgne", as they say

It’s “Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois.”.

> The 100 km radius around Paris is so stunningly depressing

I disagree with that, there's enough places around Paris that are good-looking or relaxing that I don't feel the need to leave Paris on the week-end (at random: Paris Observatory park in Meudon, with a great view on Paris)

Calling Paris "bland" and "boring" has got to be one of the hottest takes in the history of online takes. I usually remove a downvote from comments when I reply to them but I will relent from doing so in this case.

Have you been in the last ten years?

Perhaps it's just because I've grown up in the UK, surrounded by gothic and medievel buildings etc so a lot of Paris is just more of the same, but for me my weekend trip to Paris about 10 years ago ranks at the bottom of all my holidays. I found Berlin far more interesting and exciting than Paris. There are some lovely bits of Paris, but huge swathes of it are traffic stuffed concrete ovens during the summer. The Arc de Triomphe is surrounded by a 6 lane roundabout, which is fun to watch for a bit, but rather detracts from the ambiance of the site.

Going to the Arc de Triomphe is like going to Regent Street/Oxford circus in my opinion.

It's good for 5 minutes, or to see it once in your life, but it's one of the worst place to appreciate Paris / London.

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