In an effort to reduce pollution in the city of Paris, pedestrians crowded the famous Champs-Élysées Boulevard on Sunday.According to FRANCE 24, the Champs-Élysées has been dubbed by the French as one of the "most beautiful avenue[s] in the world." It is also one of the city's busiest areas, regularly congested by slowly moving traffic coming in and out of Paris from the west.
But, on Sunday, the famed boulevard, which stretches approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from the historic Arc de Triomphe to the Place de Concorde, was transformed into a pedestrian playground as part of the "Paris Breathes" initiative.
In hopes of combating the rise of pollution in the French capital, the Champs-Élysées will now be closed to cars and other vehicles on the first Sunday of every month to coincide with free admission to many of the city's museums, reports FRANCE 24.
"I wanted, as did my entire team, to re-appropriate an avenue like this one so that people could walk around, stroll with their families and ride bikes. I'm very happy to have put that into place today," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told journalists at the inauguration of the event. "So voilà… Enjoy Paris!"
The Champs-Élysées opened to pedestrians following a quaint ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
Tourists, families, and curious bystanders flooded the avenue.
"It's really pleasant! There are no cars, everyone's taking photos of themselves and it's beautiful out," Moussa Hassani, who was experiencing a nine-hour layover, told FRANCE 24.Another bystander, who asked to keep his last name confidential, said he was in Paris for a two-week visit from his home in Belgium, and knew about the closure beforehand.
"It's good that it is on a monthly basis. In Brussels we have 'A Day Without Cars' – I'm sure it's the same here. But it's just one fixed day a year. The fact that [the Champs-Elysées] will be closed once a month will help to develop tourism and commerce," said the bystander.
Business owners say that they're hoping the initiative will help boost sales, which dropped significantly after the November 13, 2015, attacks in Paris.
"It's going to be a catalyst for people to come to the Champs-Elysées," Carine Adrien, who manages a shoe store on the avenue, told FRANCE 24.
"[After the attacks], we experienced a serious decline. Business dropped by between 30 and 40 percent," she continued. "Everyone noticed the same thing. The first few months were very difficult… But things have gotten better since the beginning of May, because it's nice out."
Sébastien Lienard, who works at a news stand across the street, agreed with Adrien.
"Since the attacks we've had a big revenue problem," Lienard said. "It could be a good opportunity to increase our revenue."
According to FRANCE 24, an estimated 300,000 people, mostly tourists, visit the Champs-Elysées on a daily basis. Champs-Elysées is just one of the 13 locations in Paris to completely stop traffic on Sundays and public holidays as a part of "Paris Breathes."
The next car-free Sunday on the Champs-Elysées will be held on June 5.
[Photo from Pixabay]