In this mild, wet winter the grass keeps growing. It’s looking a bit shaggy along the tram tracks now but that doesn’t seem to bother the trams.
In spring the close mown grass along the Paris tramway looks so smooth and green that, newly arrived in Paris, I wondered at first sight whether the grass was artificial. As you can see here, it’s the real thing. Green tram tracks may be unfamiliar to British travelers but they are not uncommon elsewhere in Europe. Barcelona, Frankfurt and Strasbourg, among other cities, have grass tracks. In Berlin and other German cities a carpet of drought tolerant sedum between the tram rails is becoming a common sight.
Green tram tracks, whatever the type of vegetation, have many advantages over rails laid in tarmac or other hard surfacing. The vegetation absorbs rainwater and cools the surrounding area as it transpires. The soft surface deadens the noise of tram wheels running on the rails, making the already quiet vehicles almost silent. Pedestrians can cross the grass anywhere they choose but the paved crossings stand out clearly, without the need for signs. Similarly it’s clear that cars and bikes aren’t meant to run on the grass, though emergency vehicles can do so if necessary.
All this takes space and displaces cars, which may be unpopular, but in France grass tracks are now taken as the norm for all new tramways. It looks like the way of the future.