On a bright winter’s day with cold wind the south facing quays along the river Seine are the best place to soak up the sun unless, of course, the quays are under water. The Seine, swollen by endless winter rain, has been at crue level for over a month. That’s not actually a flood as the water is held within the outer river walls but the lower quays which constitute the new Parc Rives de Seine have been well and truly inundated.
This week the water level has finally started to drop and yesterday, as the quays emerged from the water, people were impatient to get back down to the riverside. The guy under the bridge isn’t being as intrepid as the picture might suggest. Downstream from that point the walkway was clear and dry.
When I crossed the bridge today the river was properly back in its bed and the walkways, drying fast and remarkably clear of silt or debris, were thronged with people. Pedestrians, cyclists and skaters aren’t just reclaiming their park from the river. The closure of the former expressway to cars suffered a legal setback yesterday when a court ruled (on behalf of a motorists’ lobby group) that the closure order was invalid as the impact study had been cut short. The city council is appealing the decision and the court did concede that the road didn’t have to be reopened while the appeal was considered.
The closure of the riverside expressway was part of a concerted effort to tackle air pollution. It’s is a serious issue in Paris with levels in the centre of the city bad enough to cut two years off the life expectancy of the average 30 year old. The car lobby argued that closing the riverside road would increase traffic and air pollution on the upper quays but in fact, as predicted by modeling, the traffic levels dropped significantly from January 2017 to January 2018 and air pollution on those roads fell by 25%. It’s hard to see how the appeal court can rule in favour of reopening the road when those figures are taken into account but the argument isn’t won yet.