March 25, 2019

Paris: An Urbanist Perspective from 1896

From Marilyn Rummel (via Tim Pawsey):

This has knocked me off my feet. A video from Paris compiled from footage shot from 1896 – 1900 by the Lumiere brothers who were by and large the inventors of the moving picture (and their last names WERE Lumiere!)

A Canadian, Guy Jones, has made it his mission to restore old bits of footage he has found. Superb!! And of course he has plenty more besides this one, but I can’t imagine anything topping it.


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Tim Davis, a Portlander and occasional PT commenter, also publishes urbanistically interesting posts – like this one on comparative densities of Paris and other cities.  I’ve included links to some of the original Price Tags (pdf files) that provide additional perspective.

1. The land area of Paris *includes* the gigantic bookend parks whose combined area is *six times* the size of New York’s Central Park. And if Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes were removed from Paris, the city’s density would jump to nearly 66,000 people per square mile.

2. Vancouver’s absolutely dreamy West End has a density that just ekes out that of Paris (by roughly 3.5%).

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If you’ve ever been in the western part of France, you may have visited Renne. And if you’re a foodie traveler or coffee lover, you might very well have had coffee at the Joyeux Cafe, a highly rated stop on Trip Advisor. (A second Joyeux Cafe recently opened in central Paris.)
The food and the service are lauded, but there’s something else that makes this cafe special — most of the waitstaff and kitchen staff have some form of cognitive disability, Down syndrome, or autism.

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In cities and towns why was the west side always seen as the best? Market Watch’s Steve Goldstein observes that researchers have found that it is  ” due to the impact of air pollutants at the time of the Industrial Revolution, as prevailing winds in the U.S. and Europe typically blow from west to east.”  Even today there is a price differential between the east and west sides of major cities even though the pollution that caused the difference has been minimized.
Called a “deprivation index”, pollution was the reason for up to 20 per cent of neighbourhood segregation based upon blue-collar workers and house prices. Even in pre-industrial times large cities like Paris and London had preferred west sides and east sides. The more polluted an area, the higher the percentage of low skilled workers living in the district.  By examining 5,000 industrial “chimneys” located in 70 British cities 130 years ago, researchers found that the spatial distribution of pollution correlated with areas of deprivation in cities.
The findings have implications for planning today to ensure that residential areas are situated near prevailing winds and away from sources of pollutants. And even today, that west address is still seen as best.

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People in Canada have become used to the fact that a lot of our public realm often does not include a washroom. Price Tags Vancouver is using the Canadian term for that room that includes a toilet and a sink. This room is called a “rest room” in the United States, but it serves the same purpose-it’s a place that all humans need to use, and use more frequently as humans get older.  So why have we not been installing these necessary facilities, especially near our rapid transit or heavily used bus corridors, especially for an aging population that relies on transit as a major mode of transportation?
Kudos to the City of Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee who are pushing for TransLink to install accessible public washrooms in all new stations, and in the Millennium Line Broadway Extension. As Glenda Luymes outlined in the Vancouver Sun  the lack of washrooms even drew the ire of the Raging Grannies who were in town to protest something else a few years back, but developed a special song about the lack of rapid transit washroom services. They sang that song in front of  Waterfront Station.
Seniors’ Advisory Committee Chair Colleen McGuiness stated “It’s beyond short-sighted not to put them in. Loneliness and isolation are a concern for seniors, and a lack of public washrooms on transit routes is a factor in that.” 
Oddly enough the renovated SkyTrain stations on the Expo line have space and are prepped with plumbing for washrooms, but TransLink won’t be  reporting  on  washroom availability until next year.  Issues will include the cost of maintenance, security, and sanitation. But if Edmonton, Toronto and Paris can provide washroom facilities at some stations, surely Vancouver can as well.  You can take a look at this older copy of The Buzzer that provides a chart of which transit systems have washrooms. This TransLink newsletter from 2011 also asks  “I’m curious what Buzzer readers think about the issue. Is adding more washrooms to the system important to you? If so, how do you think they should be implemented, and by whom?”



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SFU Next Generation Transportation Beyond the Anglosphere — Perspectives from Montreal, Europe, and Latin America

Paris — Reclaiming the city for its people from its cars

(April 19, 10 AM PDT)

Free webinar, but reservations required. Reserve on Eventbrite

The French capital is reinforcing its status as one of the world’s great cities by literally 1putting its best foot forward. Paris is reclaiming streets and public spaces for people, reconnecting the city to the River Seine, providing bike share on a large scale (including bike share for kids), giving priority to buses on surface streets, and developing an extensive light rail network in the suburbs and 200km of new rail, including a ring metro line with the Grand Paris Express project.
Carlos Moreno, the mayor of Paris’s special envoy for smart cities, will share these and other innovative developments in Paris.

Vienna — Affordable and inclusive greatness (April 26, 12 PM PDT)

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As reported by Reuters Paris is aggressively working towards a cyclable city , banning cars outside the Louvre and announcing a two-way four kilometer dedicated bike lane along Rue De Rivoli, one of Paris’ most iconic streets. This connection will tie together Place de la Bastille and Place de la Concorde.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo noted that Paris will be doubling cycling lanes in the next four years. “Climate is the number one priority. Less cars means less pollution. 2017 will be the year of the bicycle.” The city will also ban private cars from the historical Place du Carrousel du Louvre, which cuts through the Tuileries park and the square in front of the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum with about 9 million visitors per year.

Private car use has had a 30 per cent reduction in the city as Velib and Autolib, the bike share and the electric vehicle share has become popular.Paris is also planning a public  tram bus along the Seine’s right bank  as it prepares for the 2024 Olympic bid.

While most places would be gloating over such achievements, Paris believes it can do better, noting that Lyon and Bordeaux have already banned diesel cars and reopened public access to the riverbanks. Paris has been experiencing peak pollution levels directly attributable to diesel vehicles which will soon be banned. The municipality also opened up the stretch of highway on the right bank of the Seine as a new pedestrian zone despite strong protests by vehicular commuters and  critics.

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The C40 Mayors Summit has just finished in Mexico City and incoming Chair of the C40, Mayor of Paris Anne Hildalgo has announced a remarkable policy-four world cities, all known for their sometimes questionable air quality have committed to banning  all diesel vehicles in their municipalities by 2025. Following Tokyo’s lead the mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens stated that they would promote walking and biking, and incentivize the use of  other technologies in vehicles.
In Europe where gasoline is expensive, diesel can be a more cost-effective alternative for running vehicles. But with the World Health Organization attributing three million deaths a year to outdoor pollution exposure,  diesel engines have been pinpointed as a particular problem.

As the BBC notes: “Diesel engines contribute to the problem in two key ways – through the production of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Very fine soot PM can penetrate the lungs and can contribute to cardiovascular illness and death. Nitrogen oxides can help form ground level ozone and this can exacerbate breathing difficulties, even for people without a history of respiratory problems”.

These types of changes will mean that car makers will need to adapt to new regulations, and look for alternative ways to power vehicles. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is considering expanding an innovative Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London’s centre. And the Mayor of Mexico City states:: “It is no secret that in Mexico City, we grapple with the twin problems of air pollution and traffic”.

The banning of diesel vehicles and the promotion of active transportation and connected transit routes promises to rewrite what a legible city looks and feels like. Paris has already undertaken a regulatory ban on vehicles registered before 1997 from even entering the city,  and has embraced the closing of the Champs-Elysee to vehicular traffic one day a month.  Price Tags has also written about  a three kilometer section of the right bank of the Seine, once a throughway for motor cars becoming a walkers’ paradise, despite the fury of commuting traffic.

Eliminating diesel engine use is a direct approach to addressing the health of the city. Will Metro Vancouver follow?

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As reported by the CBC and others the City of Paris is doing a remarkable thing in permanently closing the Right Bank to car traffic, turning it into a pedestrian and cycling paradise. The road along the Right Bank has been in Paris’ downtown since the 1960’s and worked perfectly for what it was designed to do-move commuting traffic. But Paris has an air pollution problem-living in Paris means your life expectancy is reduced by 2 years,  and  air pollution claims 6,500 people.

While the Right Bank has been closed since the early 2000’s into a beach experience each summer, it reverted to its car dominated use in the Fall. Now Mayor Hidalgo, who also is the head and chair of the C40 Cities addressing climate change, has spearheaded a movement which has passed to permanently close the Right Bank road.

Since vehicles regularly commuted on this route prior to the closure, there is a bit  of pushback from those motorists. Before making way for the beach this summer, an estimated 43,000 cars drove the quay highway daily. Suburban commuters, taxi drivers and Uber are bitterly against the closure.

But Eric Britton, a sustainable development consultant looks to Copenhagen and the remarkable work that has been done to make that city into a biking and walking haven. He states”You see, congestion is also a policy. It’s a very valuable policy. Traffic is people, and people are smart, and they figure out other ways to get around.”

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