Interview of Anne Hidalgo
With the Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon in 2024, Paris is at the centre of media attention in the world. Will these Olympics be the chance to transform the city and region and to improve the quality of life for Parisians and people in the Ile de France? An interview with Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris.
2019, February 18th
How can a European capital like Paris encourage its inhabitants to be more active? What levers need to be activated as a priority (for example: transport, neighbourhood sport facilities, parks and green spaces, or…)?
Paris is a densely populated, compact city, and nearly 80% of journeys are on foot. Apart from the urgent need to combat climate change and air pollution, our policy aims at winning back our territory to give Parisians tranquil spaces to live in, where they can move around and practise a physical activity. We are therefore working on developing soft mobility, particularly cycling, with a new Vélib (bike-sharing scheme) fleet consisting of 30% electric bikes; there has been a little delay in deploying this, but it is almost ready for use, and new cycle tracks are being added.
We are also meeting the demands of Parisians who want free access to doing sport. In this context we have launched the programme: “Every Parisian less than 5 minutes away from sport facilities” in order to equip the city and concentrating on linking up the two woods which are Paris’s green breathing spaces. Gymnastic apparatus is also available in our parks and gardens. We have also launched a big plan: “Swim in Paris”, which covers the whole area and will ensure that Parisian swimming pools are renovated. Finally, our ambitious “Climate Plan” was adopted this year, to do up the green belt and pedestrianise the banks of the Seine and thus make them into a park, which means green corridors to encourage people to do a physical activity in town and make it safe for them to do so.
In 2015, Paris took on an ambitious cycling plan: Plan Vélo 2015-2020. How do you think this policy is working now we are at the half-way stage?
Since the beginning of my term as Mayor, with the help of my second in command in charge of transport and the public space, Christophe Najdovski, I have been developing an ambitious policy for improving air quality, supporting the development of soft transport and winning back the public space. The city council has allowed itself unprecedented means for achieving our objective of becoming a cycling city. With an investment of 150 million euros, the aim of Plan Vélo is to triple the number of journeys by bike by 2020, increasing from 5% to 15%. By developing the dedicated infrastructure Paris is yet again demonstrating its determination to encourage this means of transport which is so well-suited to the city: rapid, economic, environmentally friendly and healthy. The Plan Vélo envisages an express network for bikes and separate cycle tracks (about 20 km undertaken in 2017) and also two-way cycle tracks within the context of making the speed limit 30kmph in general.
These plans have fallen behind schedule because of all the consultations necessary to ensure that all those concerned were able to give their opinion: the police, the public transport network (RATP), cycle clubs and so on, and as a result we often had to find a compromise and modify the programme. However, important developments have already been realised and others are in the course of construction. For example, the cycle track linking Saint-Exupéry embankment and Bir-Hakeim bridge is already operational. The 3km track along Boulevard Voltaire from République to Place Léon Blum will be ready in the Spring.
Cycle tracks will also be created on the roads into Paris this autumn so that it will be easier and safer to cycle between Paris and neighbouring communes.
Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games (OPG) in 2024 will be the occasion for greater Paris to undertake numerous development projects. What ambitions does the City of Paris have in terms of developing sporting practice, in the context of the legacy to fall from this event?
For us the legacy is key to the success of the Games. That is why we should already be working on it, so that the effects will be felt long after 2024.
It is a fact that, at the same time as offering a superb show to the whole world, the OPG should also provide the chance for the host city to spread Olympic values at every level. They are a wonderful accelerator for public policies. As far as the event goes, we have strong ambitions regarding sustainable development, controlling the carbon footprint and employment. Our Olympics will be inclusive and create jobs. Paris is preparing to play host to the world with an efficient transport network and various innovations in welcoming spectators to ensure that they enjoy a unique experience as visitors. These Olympics will also make it possible to transform Seine-Saint-Denis and the areas around it structurally. They will make the Seine “swimmable” and provide a new arena for the city at Porte de la Chapelle. The intangible legacy will not be less important, with lots of work by our teams on developing sport practice for the greatest possible number of people. We will need to raise awareness, explain, and encourage people in every age range, in order to improve health and make sport a tool in the service of education and social inclusion. To do this, we can rely on support from the sport sector and on policies already implemented by local authorities. Thanks to the talent and expertise developed by France in hosting major international events, Paris will make these Olympics a unique experience, with long-lasting effects.