Pretty but noisy Paris, its gracious Old World buildings blackened by exhaust fumes, is going car-less for a day. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo presided over Sunday's "day without cars," two months before the city hosts the global summit on climate change. The symbolic initiative is aimed at showing that air pollution from traffic—a prime source in Paris—must be reduced worldwide and capitals must take concrete measures to shrink their carbon footprint. Mayors from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Brussels, and Bristol were in Paris for the kick-off on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue. The avenue, normally congested with vehicles, isn't the only sector of Paris having a carless moment.
"Everyone seems to be smiling, and not as stressed," a woman in her 50s tells the Guardian. "The sky has never been this blue, it really is different without a hazy layer of pollution hanging in the air." Vehicles, including motorized bicycles, are forbidden in a quarter of the French capital and "strongly not recommended" throughout. Those who hit the road anyway must observe a 12.5 mile-per-hour speed limit; police are watching. Buses, ambulances, police vehicles, fire trucks, and taxis were allowed in the streets. Paris has earlier sought to cut pollution by introducing rental bicycles in the streets, adding cycling paths, including along the scenic Seine River, and adopting a fleet of electric cars for residents to incite drivers to keep polluting vehicles at home. (Read more pollution stories.)