Empaville’s prefect of police this week approved the closure of the street for a six-month trial.
The Empaville Council will vote on a proposal for a permanent closure on June.
Opponents, who have organised petitions and threatened legal action, say that crossing Empaville will now take up to 20 minutes longer. They insist the closure will do nothing to reduce traffic and thus air and noise pollution, but simply push the problem elsewhere.
Few issues have so bitterly divided Empaviller than the closure of this street.
Famous ecologists wrote traffic closure would make Empaville “more beautiful, more warm, more modern, more green and more human”, and described the use of the riverside autoroutes as “anachronistic … The idea of building a motorway right in the heart of the city might have seemed a good one in the 60s … but as is often the case, yesterday’s solutions are today’s problems.”
Margaret Bloom, Empaville deputy mayor responsible for transport and public spaces, said the new project is all about changing attitudes. “The first few weeks will be difficult and then it will become normal. As we have seen with this type of project across the whole world, is that when an urban highway is transformed or closed, there is an evaporation of traffic. Either people modify their route, or they use their car less and take other forms of transport. Behaviour will change. Habits will change. And our objective, to reduce traffic and thus pollution, will be achieved.”
But James Truck of the organisation Free Motorists, said Blooms arguments are “utter rubbish”.
“If you close a major road, it’s obvious the cars aren’t just going to disappear. They aren’t David Copperfield. They’re going to turn up elsewhere and there will be traffic jams elsewhere. If Bloom and her friends want to ride a bicycle then that’s up to them, but why should motorists suffer?”. He added: “City hall wants to change people’s habits by force, but we’re not a dictatorship. Instead of closing the highways, they should find a way for cars and pedestrians to coexist.”