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Can Paris Get Rid Of Gas-Fueled Cars?


Paris wants to lead the way in becoming a green city. The city already announced it will ban diesel cars by 2024. Now the city council may also ban gasoline-fueled cars from its streets by 2030. It's unclear what chance that proposal has. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, many Parisians feel that would be going too far too fast.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Rue de Rivoli runs straight through the heart of Paris, and it's nearly always clogged with cars moving along at a snail's pace. Many Parisians say traffic and pollution have gotten worse since major thoroughfares along the Seine River were closed to cars and turned into pedestrian promenades. But Celia Blauel, deputy Paris mayor in charge of climate, says most Parisians don't own cars, and public spaces have to be given back to the people.

CELIA BLAUEL: We have to tackle air pollution. And we have to tackle climate change. And that means working a lot on mobility. And one of the first things we feel we have to do is to switch to something different. It's the end of the individual polluting car to another way of going and having your mobility within the city.

BEARDSLEY: Economist Flavien Neuvy says carmakers are producing automobiles that are less polluting than ever, even with fossil fuels, and it's not time to suddenly discard all the promising technology.

FLAVIEN NEUVY: (Through interpreter) Paris is not ready to ban all fossil fuel burning cars. Who's going to install the thousands of charging stations that would be needed? They're very expensive and such a discriminatory, meaning only well-off people with electric cars could drive in Paris.

BEARDSLEY: Erwan Benezet covers the automobile sector for national newspaper Le Parisien. He says the Paris city council will likely not approve the car ban for 2030. But he says the fact that Paris and other cities are already talking about it is transforming society by making drivers think about car sharing and many other options.

ERWAN BENEZET: It is a revolution, and it's going to change our current world. We're switching from a logic of you want to own your car to a logic of use. What's going to be the most important thing is not to own your car but how to use your car in the most efficient way. So it's going to be the end of the swiss knife car.

BEARDSLEY: By that, Benezet means the car that does it all - the one you drive around town during the week and take on long trips on the weekend.

Motorists and non-car-owners came out recently to protest what they call the city's anti-car measures. Christine Debousse is a real estate agent who says she now spends several hours a day in traffic.

CHRISTINE DEBOUSSE: I can't do without my car. It's impossible. Cities are made for cars. And we need cars to work, to move.

BEARDSLEY: Longtime Paris residents Carla Rigoni and Colombe Annouil Darcourt say the mayor's obsession with getting rid of cars is changing the character of the city and not in a good way.

CARLA RIGONI: (Speaking French).


BEARDSLEY: "She wants to turn Paris into some kind of Disneyland for tourists," they say. The women say banning all cars will kill the economy. And closing off certain roads to drivers is already ruining the city's historic center. "People can't even go out to the theater anymore," they say. The city is completely blocked. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.


Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.