The city vows to fight for its plans to pedestrianize a major thoroughfare along the river Seine.

On Wednesday, Paris’s Administrative Court ruled that the city’s decision to ban cars from a promenade along the river Seine was illegal. For a city administration that approached the area’s car-calminganti-pollution measures with a striking single-mindedness of mission, this decision is a bombshell. If Paris City Hall’s already-planned appeal fails, heavy car traffic will again return to what had become a riverside walkway reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists.

This is one of the most famous, well-loved strips of urban land anywhere on the planet, and the scheme to remodel the area probably had the highest profile of any pro-pedestrian project underway anywhere. What makes the ruling’s timing especially sharp is that new statistics this week showed that road traffic on the streets adjacent to the quayside had actually fallen.

The court’s objections to the policy are clear enough. It was, the judges ruled, based on preliminary impact studies that “included inaccuracies, omissions and inadequacies concerning the effects of the project.” Furthermore, the legal article invoked to give Mayor Anne Hidalgo the right to bar cars from the waterside does not actually grant her that power, the court said; at most, the article means she’s only allowed to restrict traffic at certain times.


Until the appeal is heard, the car ban will remain in place, but there’s no denying the intensity of feeling around the issue.