In a country where the circles of power are overwhelmingly White and male, the fact that many important decisions are made by exclusively White groups would be a good reason to spark outrage.
Centering spaces around the voices of those who experience oppression is the only way for them to identify strategies to deconstruct structural inequalities.
Mélanie Luce is the first woman of color to lead the UNEF, a progressive student union founded in 1907 in France. When she joined a news show to speak about the precarious social conditions of students, she could not guess that she would soon be the center of national attention. Luce admitted that the union sometimes organized safe spaces to support students of color, and the interviewer labeled the initiative as “closed to White people.”
The outrage quickly spread across the political landscape. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called the meetings “racist,” “deeply outrageous” and potentially “leading to things that look like fascism.” He added he was exploring the legal grounds to prevent the meetings.
In the Senate, the right-wing party the Republicans drafted a letter to the justice minister, claiming the meetings did not comply with “French values,” as if there were no racial issues in France. Legislator Julien Aubert alerted the Paris prosecutor and said in a statement that the interior minister should consider the dissolution of the UNEF, backing the viral hashtag #dissolutionunef. [ . . . ]
Paris has launched two months of events commemorating a radical experiment in people power, which continues to divide and inspire in equal measures 150 years later.
The 1871 Paris Commune, an uprising against a conservative government by working-class Parisians that was brutally crushed after 72 days, is one of the lesser-known chapters in French history.
But its memory still looms large in left-wing rebellions worldwide and in Paris with the towering Sacre-Coeur basilica in Montmartre, built by the victors on the ruins of the crushed Commune.
The revolt erupted after the Franco-Prussian war and ended in a bloodbath, with government troops massacring between 6,000 to 20,000 people during la semaine sanglante (bloody week) that ended the Parisians’ brief flirtation with self-rule.
Last week, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo inaugurated a programme of 50 events commemorating the Commune, including exhibitions, plays, conferences and debates.
It’s no Amsterdam, but the City of Light is catching up.
By Erik Nelson
When Lone Andersen lived in Paris in the 1980s, she says she saw “almost no cyclists. I saw one once and I almost felt that I should take a picture.” Despite the fact that France’s most iconic athletic symbol is a bike race, its capital city has never been known as a biking mecca the way Amsterdam or Copenhagen are.
Today, through a mix of new infrastructure, bike sharing and public transit frustrations, that’s changing. In fact, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation, Christophe Najdovski, recently reported that:
PARIS SAW A 54 PERCENT INCREASE IN CYCLISTS BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 2018 AND SEPTEMBER 2019.
That’s according to counts by digital meters set up at 56 sites around Paris to monitor biking. The Copenhagenize index, a comprehensive assessment of bike-friendliness, gives the French capital high marks for adding exclusive bike lanes and pushing bike sharing. But this year’s index says that with a paltry 5 percent of its commuters biking, Paris is a long way from catching up to Copenhagen’s 62 percent.
What could account for the explosion? Paris officials told local media that vélotaf — slang for bike commuting — is a big reason for the increase, while Najdovski touts the city’s plan vélo, or bike plan. The plan has realized amenities like the new two-way cycling path along the Seine’s Left Bank, running 1.5 miles from the Quai d’Orsay in the central city to Alma Bridge. It’s among nearly 200 extra miles of bike paths and lanes in the 2015 plan, along with a $780 million bike-sharing system — one that has admittedly been beset by delays and malfunctions.
If you ask longtime Parisian cycling campaigner and municipal cycling adviser Isabelle Lesens, those new commuters aren’t switching from cars. “It’s very well known that people living in Paris are really fed up with the subway because it’s absolutely crowded,” she says. “So when they discovered it could be possible to go by bike, they tried it.” That incentive can only grow with each public transit strike, like the one this week.
And while more liberal municipal governments vow to accommodate cyclists, even more conservative politicians are jumping on the two-wheeled bandwagon, Lesens says, because of the proliferation of app-based bike sharing. They’ve made it possible to be simultaneously bike-friendly and pro-business, while “nobody dares to be opposed to cycling because of the climate problems,” Lesens explains.
Still, Paris’ Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is taking heat in local media for failing to put the mettle to the pedal after completing less than a quarter of the 43 miles of bike pistes separated from cars by curbs that she’d promised in 2015.
Nevertheless, Hidalgo’s determination to “turn Paris into a global cycling capital” seems to be working. In 2013, Paris was ranked 19th on the Copenhagenize index’s list of best cycling cities. This year it’s ranked eighth. Hidalgo has also famously declared war on the electric scooters ubiquitous in the French capital, setting new rules to regulate the machines that riders often abandon in bike lanes.
Cycling in Paris isn’t for everyone, even those who are fit enough to stay balanced and keep pedaling. Frank Andrews, a 26-year-old journalism graduate student, grew up in London and calls the two cities’ biking environments “kind of comically different.”
Back in England, there are rules: “Most of my friends and myself have been fined for running lights,” Andrews says. Not so in Paris, where “it’s a bit survival of the fittest out on those streets.”
It’s easy to see how Andrews, a resident of the 6th Arrondissement, can hold his own on les rues moyennes, commuting with an expensive fixed-wheel bike like ones used in velodromes. Brakes are his only concession to convenience.
Andrews attributes the ridership growth to delivery services and “Uberized” cycling via sharing apps. As for the latter, Andrews sniffs, “I feel like I see them more on their sides, discarded on a bridge.”
And Andersen, now a traffic engineer in Copenhagen, says her more recent forays onto Paris streets haven’t been encouraging: “I have never felt an urge to ride a bike in Paris — simply because I think it is too dangerous.” In April, the prefecture of police released figures indicating bike accidents had increased about 12.5 percent over the previous year, with 147 cyclists hurt (though none killed) in three months.
What the city needs, she believes, is more lanes with solid curb separating bikes from motorized vehicles. “If the infrastructure isn’t there, you will not get people to [cycle] on a large scale because they don’t feel safe,” she says.
The more Paris is willing to sacrifice space occupied by its Citroëns and Peugeots, Andersen adds, the more it’ll be able to coax even the faint of heart to pedal onto the city’s grand boulevards.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo has approved a $304-million plan to pedestrianize the city’s famed Champs-Élysées avenue by 2030 after the Olympics
The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has approved a $304-million (250 million euro) plan to transform the city’s famed Champs-Élysées into a pedestrian-friendly public space by 2030.
The ambitious restoration project, proposed by the local community and first unveiled in 2019, will overhaul the 1.2-mile-long central street in of the French capital that connects the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde into what Hidalgo refers to as an “extraordinary garden” in Le Journal du Dimanche.
Frustrated by the alienating effect that the luxury stores and expensive restaurants had on the locals, the Champs-Élysées committee has been campaigning for the redesign since 2018 and proposed the now approved project in 2019. The scheme was designed by PCA-Stream, a French architectural firm based in Paris. PCA-Stream principal and founder Philippe Chiambaretta stated that his goal was to convert the boulevard into a space that would be “ecological, desirable and inclusive.”
Lately, the “world’s most beautiful avenue,” as it’s sometimes known, has fallen on hard times and hosted several consecutive crises thanks to its prominent location in the heart of the French capital: After the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests, strikes, and high-end retail gentrification over the last 30 years, the scheme looks to return the street to local residents. The committee, headed by Jean-Noel Reinhardt welcomed the mayor’s good news.
PCA-Stream’s scheme seeks to close half of the street’s eight lanes to cars and insert pockets of greenery or “planted living rooms.” According to Chiabaretta, this will improve the air quality of a street that sees up to an average of 3,000 cars per hour. The revitalization will also introduce food kiosks and meeting spaces in an attempt to attract locals back into the area and return it to a space closer to its original purpose of fostering open-air comingling.
The avenue was originally conceived by André Le Nôtre, King Louis XIV’s landscape architect, in 1667 as an extension to the gardens at the Tuileries Palace to the southeast on the bank of the River Seine. In 1709, the finished boulevard took its name from the Greek Elysian Fields, an outdoor paradise for the righteous to frolic in for all eternity. The new renovation be delivered in two stages; the work at the Place de la Concorde, Paris’s largest public square, will be completed before the Olympic games in 2024 with the rest following, with a completion date set for 2030.
The Champs-Élysées committee has been campaigning for a major redesign of the avenue and its surroundings since 2018.
“The legendary avenue has lost its splendour during the last 30 years. It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has been hit by several successive crises: the gilets jaunes, strikes, health and economic,” the committee said in a statement welcoming Hidalgo’s announcement.
“It’s often called the world’s most beautiful avenue, but those of us who work here every day are not at all sure about that,” Jean-Noël Reinhardt, the committee president said in 2019.
“The Champs-Élysées has more and more visitors and big-name businesses battle to be on it, but to French people it’s looking worn out.”
The committee held a public consultation over what should be done with the avenue. The plans include reducing space for vehicles by half, turning roads into pedestrian and green areas, and creating tunnels of trees to improve air quality.
The Champs-Élysées’ name is French for the mythical Greek paradise, the Elysian Fields. It was originally a mixture of swamp and kitchen gardens.
André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV the Sun King’s gardener, first designed the wide promenade lined with a double row of elm trees on each side, called the Grand Cours.
It was renamed the Champs-Élysées in 1709 and extended, and by the end of the century had become a popular place to walk and picnic.
Paris celebrated the 1944 liberation from Nazi occupation on the Champs-Élysées and World Cup victories still bring out the crowds, but its famous charm has faded and it is mostly shunned by Parisians.
Today it is famous for its expensive cafes, luxury shops, high-end car salesrooms, commercial rents among the highest in the world and the annual Bastille Day military parade.
Before the Covid-19 crisis halted international tourism, the architect Philippe Chiambaretta, whose firm PCA-Stream drew up the makeover plans, said that of the estimated 100,000 pedestrians on the avenue every day, 72% were tourists and 22% work there.
The eight-lane highway is used by an average of 3,000 vehicles an hour, most passing through, and is more polluted than the busy périphérique ring road around the French capital, he added.
Chiambaretta said the Champs-Élysées had become a place that summed up the problems faced by cities around the world, “pollution, the place of the car, tourism and consumerism”, and needed to be redeveloped to be “ecological, desirable and inclusive”.
The plans also include redesigning the famous Place de la Concorde – Paris’s largest place – at the south-east end of the avenue, described by city hall as a “municipal priority”. This is expected to be completed before the Olympic Games. The aim is to transform the Champs-Élysées by 2030.
Hidalgo told Le Journal du Dimanche that the project was one of several intended to transform the city “before and after 2024”, including turning the area around the Eiffel Tower into an “extraordinary park at the heart of Paris”.
It’s part of a larger plan to fight climate change. Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s proposal to build car-free bridges in Paris comes after she announced her goal to ban gas-fueled cars by 2030
The Paris we know and love will soon go through a bout of changes, but luckily, they’ll be for the better. This week, Paris City Hall proposed building three garden bridges over the Seine to transform the river bank into a futuristic-meets-historical destination.
According to the The Times, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to build three new pedestrian bridges over the Seine in a move to revive the city’s 18th-century tradition of having merchants set up stalls on bridges. It’s hard to imagine exactly what the final project will look like, because as one city official claimed, there’s “nothing like it anywhere in the world as far as we know.” It could be similar to Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, which is filled mostly with jewelry shops and art stores, but it’ll be more of a city plaza [ . . . ]