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"Tribune libre"

Pollution and pedestrianisation. It is not a Parisian problem.

Translated Tuesday 13 March 2018, by Paula Smith

The first issue of pedestrianizing the riverbanks is that of air pollution. It kills, every year, 48 000 people in France. It worsens asthma or respiratory problems, causes developmental delays for children and neurological trouble for adults. According to politics, everyone is in agreement to tackle the problem. Unfortunately, we are still awaiting strong actions to take over from the pompous declarations. This raises questions concerning the place of cars in our society, even if cars are not the only source of pollution. Lawyers of yesterday’s world would really like to hold us back but in whose interest? The demagogues are seeing an opposition between yuppies and plebs. However when the editors of the Figaro discover a social fibre one must be careful. In this case it is manipulation. The first reason concerns the fact that the majority of outer city residents go to work via public transport where the fundamental issue is to assure decent conditions for the people. The second is linked to studies which show that drivers who circulate on the banks are mainly in the high earner category, white and male. The professional classes of Boulogne complain but they have ways for their frustration to be heard in the media. This, however, does not represent the working classes.

This is not the only factor – true. Cars have been sold to people, giving them the impression of gaining freedom. Cars mostly make people dependent on loans and cost ridiculous prices. Worse, numerous citizens have purchased diesels, encouraged by the State to do so, and by manipulative advertising, like that of Volkswagen. The drivers are turkeys in a tragic farce – it is unjust that they undergo such expenses. In the USA, the German car maker has already paid 25 million dollars – nearly 50 000 dollars for each car…This allows many of the drivers to have their problem resolved. And in France? It appears that finally that the main issue is symbolic. Its significance has heightened the hostilities relating to the pedestrianisation of the riverbanks, more so than the actual potential impact: the distance involved is only 3, 3 kilometres (out of more than 1 700 in Paris) and 0, 16% of the used millage of the ‘Ile de France’. How can one seriously think that this action can resolve the problem of pollution in Paris or the opposite, address the traffic jams which for many years has spoiled the life of the Ile de France residents?

But, evidently, with the idea of limitations – and so few! – The questioning of car usage is intolerable for some. They have decided to mobilise large sums to prevent it. They use a significant amount of energy and support their networks with an unprecedented aggression.

Whether we like Anne Hidalgo or not, whether we criticize this or that, she is fighting against air pollution and against the power of cars in the city. If she loses, the message will be clear for all politicians – male and female in France: Do not touch the Parisian problem. All the communities served by the A86, amongst others, are victims of air pollution. Other Town-halls should have the courage to seize such an opportunity. We need more pedestrianisation in other parts of France.

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