A secluded green way running through a densely populated area can feel quite threatening, unless there are clear signs that the route is well used and looked after. If a path feels unsafe, people will be reluctant to use it and the lack of natural supervision may lead to misuse and real dangers.
This section of the Promenade Plantée (or Coulée Verte René-Dumont) gets off to a good start at either end. From the Jardin de Reuilly the track runs through a boxy, modern tunnel that would be bleak if it weren’t for the extraordinary, sculptural mural along either wall, complete with a series of cascades. The tunnel is clean and litter free and the running water of the cascades masks the sound of water dripping from the roof. At the other end of the route, where the track disappears behind barriers under the Péripherique and a link path continues to the Bois de Vincennes, the spiral staircase linking the pedestrian route to street level is surrounded by a well tended flower bed. These features suggest an interesting route ahead and show there’s someone around to take care of the place.
Where the route of the old railway track runs in a cutting, the banks are wooded with trees that look mostly self sown, underplanted with ferns and shade tolerant shrubs. The overall impression is quite natural but, in an urban environment, informality doesn’t look this good without careful planning and regular maintenance.
At intervals along the track there are groups of benches and prominent, traditional park keeper’s shelters. The buildings may only be used as tool stores, and you’re not likely to find a park keeper boiling up a kettle in one of them, but the traditional style gives another unspoken message that there’s someone in charge round here. You are quite likely to see one of the maintenance teams’s little white, electric trucks along the route. Their depot is tucked into the arches too, underneath Rue Picpus.