Last Thursday, June 21st, was a big day for the Place de la République as construction for the new lay-out of the square entered phase 2 (see background in my post Place de la République).
With this, an important symbol of the current city administration’s move away from the car-centric urban planning is beginning to be visible.
The big thing this entailed was the closing off of the north side of the square to traffic and therefore the changing of the traffic patterns not just on the square, but in the whole neighborhood. Most notably, after years as a a one-way artery, Boulevard Saint-Martin now has traffic in both directions.
Even though most of the square is closed off for construction, one can begin to get a sense of the new space, with the broad space that used to be full of traffic in front of the former Magasins-Réunis building and the Verrines Barracks now quiet. This has already changed the center of the square, which used to be an island isolated in a sea of traffic.
On the morning of the first day with the new lay-out, the square was full of police officers to help drivers got used to the new circuits through the square. There were no accidents, but things did get backed up, especially in the evening rush hour. Overall, though, the new intersections seem quite well thought through and seem workable from a traffic point of view.
Parisians will now wait for spring 2013, when the Place de la République will be restituted to them with its new design. It will be a leading example of the ambitious redesign of Parisian urban spaces away from the narrow ideas of traffic engineers focused on automobile traffic and toward the better incorporation of a whole variety of forms of use.