That is from their May 7th, 2013 issue, which is rich of Transportation perspective,…,
and eventually illustrates the dichotomy of thought on it between the Western world and Asia

Jaywalking is responsible of the Beijing traffic woes

As you could know, Beijing is facing massive traffic issues, and here like too often in North America before, it is considered that the pedestrians are the problem. Enforcing the jaywalking laws is not an easy matter but it is deemed necessary by chinese,…this to be a “world class” country… at par with the USA…
In Vancouver, Councillor Heather Deal, whose devoted great amount of VPD time and taxpayer money to enforce the local jaywalking laws, couldn’t agree more [5].

In the Meantime, it is worth to note that in the not so “world class” countries such UK or France, jaywalking is legal as in many other European countries, and still it is generally safer to be a pedestrian there than in Vancouver and more generally in North America.

Cycling in Hong Kong raises a safety issue

The edition contains not less than 2 articles related to cycling in Hong Kong: “Cyclist see open roads up ahead”, and “Cyclists face uphill ride on buses, MTR”.

Cycling is pretty much foreign to Hong Kongers: the fact that the Chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling alliance, Martin Turner, is a British raised individual is tale telling…And when cycling is considered it is mostly for recreational purpose, could lament Martin. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidences seem to show that cycling is on the rise in Hong Kong, like anywhere else, but it seems to be little appetite to quantify that:

Cycling seems on the rise in Hong Kong, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find a free spot to park your bike, before boarding the Transit system

Cycling seems on the rise in Hong Kong, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find a free spot to park your bike, before boarding the Transit system – notice Police can seize bike tied to the handrail – Credit Photo (4)

Statistics show that bike accidents are on the rise too. Helmet laws and bike licensing, are called by some quarters, to reverse this worrisome trend!

Turner has another opinion, and is lobbying for bike rack on bus, like in San Francisco, or Vancouver,…a North American specificity not seen Europe. This promise to be a tough sell, but there is lot of things to do to improve cycling in Hong Kong beside that:


Hong Kong bike lane (Along Ting Kok Rd, Kong Kong NT): More often that not, Hong Kong's cyclists are expected to walk their bikes to the Bike path... and dismount at intersections...what by the way is usually not respected! -credit photo left (4), right, Google

Light Rail or Monorail in Kong Kong

The debate concerns the redevelopment of the former Hong Kong’s airport: Kai Tak, which still look pretty much like below:

View on Kai Tak, the Former Hong Kong Airport.

View on Kai Tak, the Former Hong Kong Airport.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) of Hong Kong has a grand vision for the site, which seems reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s cite radieuse, including a “people mover” under the form of a monorail [1]:

Proposed Monorail for Kai Tak new districtHkMonorailArtistView

Proposed Monorail for Kai Tak new district

Veolia operating The Hong Kong Trams, is making the case for a tramway. Many readers of the South China Morning Post support this idea. Norman Y. S. Heung, project manager at the CEDD Office, explains it is “Practically impossible to accommodate tram system at Kai Tak”, because taking too much road space (sic)…Worth to note that most of the area is not even built yet!

Many other arguments are advanced in favour of the Monorail, which is also presented as a tourist attraction… but at the end the quality of the urban environment is not one of them. It is also explained that the “walking environment will be improved by provision of footbridges and [underpasses]” (sic).

So Does the Kai Tak’s monorail will look like the Chongqing one , or does Hong Kongers will push for a different street experience, may be on the model of the Kunming’s Zhengyi Rd?

Left, Chongqing (China): An avenue with a Monorail (opened in 2011) - Right, Kunming (China): Zhengyi Rd offers a Bld experience, which at par with the ones more traditionally founded in Europe - credit photo left (3), right, (4)

[1] See the video and other information at Hong Kong CEDD

[2] Old Cat

[3] South China Morning Post

[4] VivenDesign

[5] Vancouver launches campaign to educate ‘fragile’ pedestrians, Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, February 07, 2012.

An Avenue in Neuilly

January 3, 2012

It is Charles de Gaulle avenue, one of the busiest European highway [16], carrying no less than 150,000 vehicles/day, which Neuilly wants to put it into a tunnel. fair enough!… but not that simple. First, the cost- a fantastic €1 billion for a less than 1.5km tunnel. Secondly, 8 to 10 years of construction. Thirdly and probably more important, arises the question of what should look the Avenue…2 different visions: On the surface…one presents an avenue with a large median while another prefers an avenue with contre allées:

A green Mall- as envisioned by Vasconi-Natale (left) or a central avenue with shared contre allee (right)

On what could be probably considered as mere cosmetics by many, the France’s Head of state, Nicolas Sarkozy carries all his weight into a battle, engaged by franc tireur Jean Christophe Fromantin, involving the Mayor of Paris and having as soldiers no less than architects like Castro, Foster or Pei….Why that?

  • Because behind an apparently benign Boulevard configuration, what is at stake is 2 fundamentally different visions of the city.

But…first a bit of context:

The geographic context

Neuilly sur Seine, tucked on the west side of Paris, between the Champs-Élysées and la Défense, and bordering the magnificent Bois de Boulogne parisian park, is the most affluent Parisian suburb.
Its Avenue Charles de Gaulle, linking Paris to La Defénse, in the Champs Élysées alignment, is part of the Royal axis, envisioned by André Le Notre in 1640.

The Avenue Charles de Gaulle in the context of the historical axis (royal way): it is the axis's westend section between La Defénse et Porte Maillot

An avenue of superlative

Nowadays this 70 meters wide avenue carries a staggering amount of traffic, ~150,000 vehicles/day [1]. That is only the tip of the iceberg: 80% of the trips occur in fact below the surface, where run one of the world busiest subway line and one of the world most busiest train line [2].

Today, Not only the avenue, but also its origin, the Porte Maillot, marking the limit between Neuilly and Paris, are a far cry to the standard their “world class” location commends:

The Charles de Gaulle avenue is treated as a freeway. On its 70 meters wide, one can count up to 20 lanes of cars (including parking)!

Avenue Charles de Gaulle is also part of the national road network (where it is then called RN13) and is considered as a strategic axis, under direct state supervision.

The political context.

Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Neuilly, a right-wing stronghold, before winning the presidential election in 2007, and was then carrying the burying project of the RN13 road. At the 2008 city election, he was endorsing his protege David Martinon to be his successor for Neuilly…It should have been a formality matter, but a franc tireur, Jean Christophe Fromantin came into the way, and will be elected Mayor of Neuilly (60,000 inhabitants) at the great displeasure of the Sarkozy’s clan. To mitigate the damage, Jean Sarkozy, the President’s son will be candidate, and be elected as expected, as a district councillor for a Neuilly ward. He will be vested instantaneously as the wip of his party, which incidentally control the district council (1.5 millions of people), and will be also president of the District’s Transport commission.

The Paris Regional area, like Paris is under control of the left (PS): Jean Paul Huchon is president of the Paris regional council (which oversight 12 millions people) while better known Bertrand Delanoë is mayor of the influential Paris city (2 millions inhabitant).

All of the above political actors have an opinion on the tunnelling under the Avenue Charles de Gaulle. We shouldn’t forget the still powerful prefect of Paris, Daniel Canepa, appointed by the president, and in charge to represent the interests of the “state”.
The least opinionated is may be the The president of the region whose doesn’t want to pay for it:

  • The cost of tunneling 1.5km of road, €1 billion, can also buy 8km of Express subway tunnel, and that is more inline with the regional priority.

The 2 different options

The pastoral vision

Up to 2007, it was no much discussion on what to do with the avenue, and the credo up to then could have been tunnel=park…So the general idea was that “traffic” is bad and needs to be put into the tunnel. As much as possible tunnel accesses need to be provided to this effect: That is known as the Complete burying of the avenue. The project was very Neuilly centric, and it was no consideration of the avenue context in the “Étoile-La Défense” axis. Thought that the City of Neuilly will have commissioned 2 different architecture studies, Bressac-Huet and vasconi-Natale, their work was just to be considered as informal contribution for a 2006 debate. The ‘official’ study was focusing on the tunnel not taking into account the urban environment [24]. The renderings of the project as of 2006, reflect it:

the avenue with traffic put in tunnel...allow for a large grassed median...lot of green: that is pretty much it. no bike no bus, no sidewalk coffee, not much life

The large grassed median avenue is modeled on the Avenue de Breteuil in Paris, an avenue commending some of the highest real estate price in the city. Thought it is pretty, it is also dull and lifeless.

Avenue de Breteuil, Paris: a large grassed median, ideal for its posh residential neighborhood, but also a pretty lifeless avenue


The tunnel exits right at the door of Paris, at Porte Maillot. traffic estimated at 200,000 vehicles

The social and economic justification of this project is basically null [18], nevertheless this pastoral vision is the one supported by the Sarkozy family.

The “global” vision

“the complete burying is a reductionist approach, taking account only the neighbors comfort”…said the Neuilly’s mayor, Jean Christophe Fromantin [25], whose think that ““kill all the traffic” is destructing value[5]. In 2008, it will expose an alternative project, then called axe13 [19], based on 2 main principles:

  • Charles de Gaulle Avenue, between Paris and La Défense, deserves an ambitious project in surface
  • It is the the surface project which is defining the quality of the urbanism project and justifying, or not, a tunnel (and not necessarily the traffic level)

Fromantin will have got the discrete and benevolent involvement of some pretty famous firms and architects before exposing the idea to public: The project is based on a less ambitious tunneling reduced to regional transit traffic only [17]-that is known as the partial burying of the avenue: Gone are the tunnel portals in the middle of the avenue, but also a much more urban avenue is proposed, which found its inspiration more in La rambla of Barcelona than the Avenue de Breteuil of Paris:

  • Tranquility of the neighbors is not the main objective anymore, the main one is to create an attractive urban space.

The project features central circulation on 6 lanes, including 2 bus lanes. Traditional contre-allee are treated as space-shared and feature numerous kiosks

Below are some configuration of the 70 meters wide avenue

The different Profiles of Charles de Gaulle avenue (profile of the Grande Armée avenue connecting to Charles de Gaulle at Porte Maillot is given for reference)

But what will buy the support of Paris [23], beyond the sweet taste of supporting a project creating the ire of the Sarkozy’s clan [20][21], is the integration of the project in a relatively “global” context:

Pont de Neuilly, links Charles de Gaulle avenue with La Défense or rather its huge intestines... the huge pedestrian mall at La Défense is virtually not accessible by foot!

Pont de Neuilly

In the early stage, the highlight of the project was at the western end of the Avenue, Pont de Neuilly, a bridge over the Seine river. Renewing with a Middle age tradition, Fromantin is envisioning to transform it into a living bridge on the model of the Hadi Teherani bridge project in Hamburg. It has been no lack of leading architect contributions, among them some from Pei or Piano : none of them catch-up with the Fromantin idea…none of them have been convincing enough so far either…

At Pont de Neuilly, Fromantin envisions a living bridge as inspired by the Teherani project in Hamburg

I. M. Pei contribution for Pont de Neuilly. The streetcar is treated as amusement park attraction: No doubt that Pei is american

But in fact, with the project maturing , Porte Maillot, connecting the avenue on the eastern edge, is affirming itself as the project’s gravity center.

The emergence of Porte Maillot

Porte Maillot: A "No man's land" marking the limit between Paris and Neuilly. Charles de Gaulle Avenue starts here (right picture is taken from it)- credit photo for right (27)

Porte Maillot has long been neglicted, not to say that its potential has been ignored by architect like Le Corbusier [11]. It is technically on Paris territory, so it can looks curious to see the Neuilly’s mayor proposing the redesign of something not under its jurisdiction, but he probably didn’t do it without involving Paris city-hall.

At the difference of the pastoral vision, in the global vision, the traffic is not feeding into Paris anymore: it is directed directly to the Boulevard Périphérique, a ring road expressway surrounding Paris – so the tunnel is not designed to be a faster way to enter into Paris: people going to Paris-Porte Maillot- still have to stay on the surface. The absence of portal unleashes the urban potential of Porte Maillot:

  • In such instance, it is expected that the residual surface traffic to be an healthy 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles/day, when 85,000 to 150,000 could travel into tunnel depending on the toll options.

In the "global" vision, the tunnel exit disappears, to darn seamlessly Neuilly to Paris, thru Porte Maillot. Current rendering (illustration from Bernard Lamy) are nothing much more than that some "towers in the park" and must be understood as testing ground

Economics for a Billion tunnel

That is certainly a Gordian knot. Clearly traditional metrics can’t justify such a project.
Thought,numerous part of the project is geared toward land lift, real estate appreciation an development are eventually estimated to generate not much more than €300 millions. Toll is another source of financing:

  • without toll traffic is expected to be 150,000 vehicles into the tunnel.
  • with a €2 toll, traffic is reduced to 85,000 vehicles into the tunnel…other vehicles finding alternative ways (a priori the study doesn’t expect a report on public transit) [6]…Toll revenue is estimated at €35 millions/year, not even close enough to cover the debt service.

Some other rationals are needed to justify it:


It is not the least of the strength of the Fromantin’s approach to have replaced this project in a global world context: Paris has to compete with London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai…and like it or not, the Neuilly’s Avenue Charles de Gaulle sits on an emblematic axis defining Paris…and its image is not that good…

  • Victim of its success, a “Mummification” of the historic Paris at the eastern end…
  • and at the western end « this is La Défense, the office-city that nobody really likes but that has one undeniable virtue… »[12]:

La Defense, the historic axis in a Paris, as seen by Rem Koolhass (12)

Rem Koolhass, scheme captures pretty well what is the essence of the Paris metropolis. and one of it is that La Défense, long considered to be an eyeshore having nothing to do with Paris needs to be reappropirated as part and defining feature of the city, pretty much like “The city“-obviously full part of London- is.

When come branding, one can think of the Olympic games or World’s fairs to put a city on the world stage: A whole new dimension where €1 billion to define a city image is not necessarily considered as extravagant!

Some general observations.

The level of political intrigue is very high, the level of general public involvement pretty low and secret deals are the norm. It is not that the public is disinterested by urban affairs, it is, but it is just how the things have always worked in Paris:

Urban affairs have been for long a domain for enlightened dictatorship preferring confrontation to compromise…Rare Departures of it, like has been done at the Halles, have usually translated in disasters: As theorized by Haussmann, Paris is a city of Nomads and immigrantswhy ask for their opinions?…Paris belongs to France…[26] – and the most celebrated Parisian modern architecture piece, Pompidou centre by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, and Louvres Pyramid by I.M. Pei have suffered not a single input of the Paris public- architecture without compromise….But the intricacies of the french political system and public interest in urban affairs is such, that “enlightened dictatorship” in urban matter can’t exercise without a certain level of support [13] which request a ‘dictator’ with an urban vision showing breath and ambition.

The Design of a Boulevard is certainly a serious matter in Paris, but in the context of the Neuilly Avenue Charles de Gaulle, we can see it has triggered a more fundamental discussion:

  • The place and level of traffic in the city, but overall more importantly a question on the desired environment, a”pastoral” vision versus an assumed “urban” (Is all that green that good?).

It is also the tale of 2 methods:

  • Act fast versus act right

Thought, it has failed to place Jean Sarkozy at the head of the very rich and powerful EPAD- the organization controlling la Défense development- in 2009, the Sarkozy family controls all the key level of power enabling the pursuing of their vision in an diligent manner. But, because Fromantin was able to offer a strong and powerful counter-proposition, involving a dream team of architects, gathering an incredible among of support crossing a wide political spectrum (from the right wing to the Communist party on the left… and incidentally inflicting an humiliating defeat to another Sarkozy protege in a 2011 district election [15]), the Sarkozy clan has been stopped in its tracks. Now, looking clearly overwhelmed by the dimension of a project they were initially ridiculing [20][21], the Sarkozy’s seem to use all of their influence to drag it down…all for the wrong reasons:

A social note

There is little questioning in France, on excessive activities centralization and almost obscene wealth concentration [14], eventually forcing people to live far away of their work place and putting incredible stress on the transportation system. Indeed, to relieve an “overcrowded” transportation system feeding La Défense, they intend to build more of them, defacto reinforcing a vicious circle: an area becoming increasingly attractive…but eventually at the expense of many other parts in Paris…and tremendous cost of negative “branding” like the 2005 riot, and ways to address the root cause of it, don’t seem too much on the decision maker’s radar.

It is also curious to see that the very “provincial”, if not outright primitive, Sarkozy’s approach has been able to go without questioning for so long. That is certainly due to the fact that Neuilly sits outside the Historic Paris core and as much as careful attention is given to any thing occurring into the city historic limits, as less as there is concerns on what happens other side of the Boulevard Péripherique, which acts as a barrier between the historic core and its metropolitan region, as efficiently as the citywall it has replaced. General attention has started to be given to this project once people have understood it was defining Paris.

Unless otherwise noticed, pictures credit to [4] and [19].

[1] It makes the third busiest road of France, the 2 others one being freeway A1 and A6: Not even the Port Mann bridge in Vancouver area carry close to this amount of traffic. The Champs-Élysées itself carries ~85,000 vehicles/day.

[2] Metro line 1, and RER line A (a regional express train line). the extension of the RER line E is also scheduled.

[3] Jean Sarkozy will be also “recommended” as to be directing the “La Defense” administration which is the most important European Business district. This has created a public outrage, and plan has not been pursued.

[4] Debat public sur le projet de denivellation et de couverture de la RN13, 22 février au 30 mai 2006

[5] Le projet qui sème la zizanie, Constanty Hélène, l’Express, January 20, 2009

[6] axe majeur, third public meeting minutes, Feb 7, 2011.

[7] 4 teams have focused on different thematics. Focusing on business development (Deloitte-Foster), people (Fidal-Gautrand), social interaction (Francis Lefebvre-Castro) and cultural development (PricewaterhouseCoopers-Ferrier)

[8] Les projets d’aménagement de surface, Contribution to the 2006 public debate, Ville de Neuilly

[10] Paris, an architectural history, Anthony Sutcliffe, Yale University Press 1993

[11] This area got tested with the high rise idea in the 30’s: the section between the Arc de Triomphe and la defense was supposed to be developed as the Triumphal way, and a parisian properties developer, leonard Rosenthal, privately organised a consultation for the study of the architectural treatment of Porte Maillot (to be then called ‘Place de la Victoire’), which saw lot of emphasis on High rises. The government itself will have organised late 1931 another consultation which has resulted in more conservative submissions but will have not followed suite on it. The French urbanists society will recommend la Defense, rather Porte Maillot, to experiment new architecture urban form [10]…and here we are!

[12] S,M,L,XL, Rem Koolhaas, New York, Monacelli Press, 1995.

[13] Even Haussmann, failing to understand that the support of the Emperor was not sufficient, will fall on growing opposition of Paris

[14] A rare dissident opinion: À propos d’un investissement urbain à Neuilly…, François Meunier, October 14, 2009, telos. Another one is offered in [18]

[15] Jean Christophe Fromanin, gaining 70% of the vote has defeated Marie-Cécile Ménard in a 2011 district election. the later was occupying the district seat of Nicolas Sarkozy for his district seat.

[16] Les Hauts-de-Seine jugent “inacceptable” le plan d’aménagement de M. Huchon, Béatrice Jérôme, le Monde, June 28, 2007.

[17] Originally, Fromantin was advocating for 2×2 lanes tunnel with no intermediate access, and a 2×3 surface lanes boulevard, when the Sarkozy family was advocating for a 2×3 lanes tunnel with intermediate access complimented by 2×2 surfaces side lanes… To date the State administration says that the traffic prediction support a 2×3 lanes tunnel, but agree against the intermediate access.

[18] Quel bilan socio-économique pour le tunnel sous Neuilly ?, Frédéric Heran and DARBERA Richard Darbeda, Transports, no438, 2006.

[19] The initiative will be renamed “axe majeur” in the years 2008.

[20] Enfouissement de la N 13 : Sarkozy s’impatiente, Le Parisien, July 6, 2009.

[21] Jean Sarkozy: “Les études de Mr Fromantin masquent un manque d’initiative”, Kévin Deniau, L’express, July 7, 2009

[22] Neuilly taille la route vers le Grand Paris, V. Sibylle, Liberation, April 24, 2009

[23] Enfouissement de la RN13 à Neuilly: la mairie de Paris approuve le projet, AFP news via Le Point, Dec 16, 2010.

[24] Vasconi-natale will have brought some suggestion for Pont de neuilly and Porte Maillot, marking the ends of the Avenue. that was going beyond the study scope, but was already opening the idea of a treatment of the aveneu in a “Global” context

[25] Le maire de Neuilly tente une percée, Bertrand Greco, le Journal du Dimanche, June 1 , 2009

[26] Transforming Paris: the life and labors of Baron Haussmann, David P. Jordan, Free Press, 1995.

[27] blog of Brigitte Kuster, Paris XVII Arrondissement’s mayor

When it is time to discuss of what makes a “Grand Boulevard”, it is interesting to get the view of the impressionists, contemporaries of the Parisian Haussmann period, which is traditionally attached to the notion of Boulevard.

Ludovic Piette (a french Painter) was writing to Camille Pissarro [1]:

    I have always loved the immense streets of Paris, shimmering in the sun, the crowds of all colours, those beautiful linear and aerial perspectives, those eccentric fashions, etc. But how to do it? To install oneself in the middle of the street is impossible in Paris.

Pissarro, was lucky enough to have a room with view on the Boulevard Montmartre, allowing him to epitomize the qualities of the “Grand boulevard”:

Boulevard Montmartre by Camille Pissarro (1897)

This 35 meters wide boulevard opened in 1763, pre-date the Hausmann’s work in Paris, but carries most of the features usually attributed to the typical Haussmannian boulevard. It pertains to the orthodox Parisian definition of the Grand Boulevards [5]:

  • The boulevards are linear and offer an open perspective (like the one opened by Haussmann), changing direction only at major intersections
  • Notice the intense level of traffic and how the lamppost are sitting in the carriage way, to not use the pedestrian realm
  • …and how wide is the pedestrian space

Usually sidewalks use around half of a typical Parisian boulevard width, This has not varied since the French second empire (1852-1870). Below is a compared cross section of Boulevard Montmartre in Paris and Broadway Street (at Cambie) in Vancouver [2].

proposed 36 meters wide Montmartre Boulevard, Paris, cross section (top), compared to Broadway Street (30 meters wide) at cambie, Vancouver BC (bottom). Notice how Broadway should have no more than the equivalent of 4 lanes of traffic to fit the Parisian boulevard model. It has up to 7 lanes!

Quality of the Urban furnitures is important and got noticed (many of them has been designed by Gabriel Jean Antoine Davioud):

From a balcony on boulevard Haussmann. Gustave caillebotte (1880)

…But one of the main feature of the Parisian boulevards, is the buzz/energy surrounding them: the gentle crowd, the trees, the play of light, is why people will like to mingle here (last picture in the post also gives a strong incentive to do so!)

Boulevard des capucines Monet (1874)

The above and ample sidewalks provide a fertile ground for the development of coffee patio, in adition of the Boulevard theatres.

Evening on a Parisian boulevard. Georges Stein (1870-1955)

Building form

The formal avenue de l’Opéra opened in time for the Universal exposition of 1878, is an exception. It is bereft of trees (and the sidewalk could have been reduced accordingly) on the insistence of the Opera’s architect, Charles Garnier, this to preserve the perspective onto its masterpiece [6]. The move has been appreciated enough to keep this avenue bereft of trees up to today [11]. Another architect request- to have the street free of urban furniture- has been lost in time…

Avenue de l'opera, Pissarro (1898)

In the Pissarro and others impressionists paintings, ornamental and architectural details of the buildings lining the boulevards are basically absent.

Haussmann designed the Avenue of the Opéra, but it has been built after his 1870’s “resignation”, (associated to the fall of the Napoleon III regime), this between 1876 and 1878. When Haussmann was providing architectural template to the properties developers, the new regime, pressed by the deadline of the 1878’s exposition, had been far less stringent in their building request:

  • They have divided the area in 55 lots, sold in 1876, to almost as many different landowners, required to build in a 2 years time frame to the maximum height authorized by the by-laws, and that all principal horizontal lines in each block should coincide, which ensured that all the windows would be at the same level. Balconies were obligatory [7]. Other pre-existing regulation ensured the aesthetic unity of the avenue.

That is what Pissarro expresses in his canvas, where the militaristic rigor of the buildings is gently counter balanced by the chimneys disorder on their roofs, and colorful shopkeeper awnings at their feet.


The traffic on the Grand Boulevards (boulevard des Italiens, des Capucines et Montmartre) is qualified of “intensive” by the Paris Prefecture in 1904, while the one on the 30 meters wide Boulevard Haussmann, (depicted by Raffaelli below), is qualified of “active” by the same source [3][9]. This, in addition to the facts that it is in the immediate vicinity of the most used -by far- railway station of the time- Gare Saint Lazare[10], and nearby department stores, are the reasons why we see a street much more dominated by pedestrian activities.

Boulevard Haussmann, Raffaelli

Obviously, public transit is the source of numerous complaints (which the subway, to be open in time for the Universal exposition of 1900, is promised to resolve! [8])

Boulevards des italiens, Pissarro (1897)

Most of the carriages seen in this picture and others are fiacres, (carriage for hire which has been replaced by taxis), and “omnibuses” (which has been replaced by buses). Private carriage was a rarity so street parking was not a problem. In those days (1891), it was counted 45,085 vehicles of all sorts in Paris but number was growing much faster than the population and was reaching 65,543 in 1906 (automobile accouting for a mere 4,077) …The Prefecture of Paris was numbering fiacres at 15,775 (today, there is roughly the same number of taxi!) and 2,572 tramways and “omnibus” [3], the equivalent of bus, already carrying in the vicinity of 220 millions passenger circa 1865 [7]…The 3 horses omnibuses seen in the Pissarro painting are the largest of the days (2.45m by 8 meter long including horses: they are considered “monsters” by the witnesses of the days [3][4]. Capacity number are, of course, irrelevant.

The other Boulevards

The impressionists like Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Renoir…, dedicated numerous painting to the Grands Boulevards in the immediate vicinity of gare Saint Lazare (all the canvas presented so far has been drawn in a 10-15mn walk from gare Saint Lazare, which itself has also been the attention of Monet among other). This railway station was also the termini of train from the Vexin français -area around Pontoise– where most of the French impressionists have elected residence at one moment of their life, and this fact can explain why this little area of Paris got far most attention than others…

Nowadays, the probably most photographied avenue is the Champs Elysees. in the XIX, it is pretty much out of reach to most of the people. Even the fiacres are rare, and traffic seems dominated by the much more exclusive landau transportation mode. Notice how the horses manures are speedily removed in the Jean Béraud‘s canvas below:

Champs Elysees - La modiste, Jean beraud (1900)

The Parisian lower class can be found around the Boulevards exterieurs (around 40 to 45 meters wide). Boulevard Clichy is one of them. Edgar Degas lived and died there but this boulevard didn’t inspired him, at the difference of Paul Signac, Vincent van Gogh and Pierre Bonnard, which we choose, for its naturalist qualities, to illustrate this boulevard:

Boulevard Clichy, Pierre Bonnard (circa 1900)

The Boulevard exterieurs, marked the limit of Paris before its amalgamation with neighbor suburbs in 1860 at the initative of Haussmann, and have been opened in 1864. They eventually were synonym of life condition that the Haussmann contemporaries were trying to escape (Signac, Vuillard will paint the Boulevard exterieurs under snow, which, by its rarity, in some sort represent an escape of the usual condition).

The large boulevard median was not to separate traffic directions, The 2 ways seen in the painting was existing on both side of the Wall of the Farmers general which has been destroyed in 1860: A canvas of Pissarro better illustrates that fact (the street on side of the median will be converted to one way traffic much later)

Boulevard des Batignolles, Pissarro (1878)

The circulation on the Boulevards exterieurs was considered as active in 1904. As the canvas represents, the type of circulation is much more different than the one seen on the Grand Boulevards, and if there is nowadays no more cabs in Paris than it was fiacres more than a century ago, those are now more evenly spread on the whole Paris area, making them looking rarer.

Life outside the Boulevards

We couldn’t close this chapter, without mentioning what was the life condition outside the Boulevards in the Haussmann century. Charles marville‘s photographies illustrate what Paris was looking before Haussmann:

rue Tirechape - Charles marville (1858-1878). This street is not existing anymore

[1] Mon cher Pissarro – Lettres de Ludovic Piette à Camille Pissarro, Ludovic Piette, Paris 1985

[2] Broadway Street, Vancouver: cross section from beyond the B line, City of Vancouver 1999. Notice it is not the worst configuration found but the existing one…the proposed introduction of a LRT makes things worse with proposed sidewalk as narrow as 2.70m in the 1999 study. Currently Boulevard Montmartre, Paris, has been one way since 1951 but is considered to be reversed back two ways, and it is this configuration which is presented here. You will notice the bus getting out of its lane to avoid a cyclist – that is per design: Bus+bike lanes is the modus operandi in France, wholly supported by the Green councilors of Paris, at the very much difference of Adriane Carr in Vancouver (her position on the topic being summarized here)

[3] Etudes sur les transformations de Paris et autres écrits sur l’urbanisme, Eugène Hénard, 1903-1909. as reedited by éd. L’Équerre, 1982.

[4] The longest carriage is 20 meters, it is used for beam transportation by carpenter: it s then considered as an exceptional convoy[3]

[5] There are several Boulevard denominations in Paris, the grand boulevards being the ones built in replacement of Louis XIII city’s wall, according to the 1676 Pierre Bullet’s plan under the Louis XIV reign)

[6] The perspective has also been obtained by the leveling of an hill, the buttes des Moulins, which will have provided a convenient pretext to a slum cleansing operation in the whole Opera area.

[7] The autumn of Central Paris: the defeat of town planning 1850-1970, Anthony Sutcliffe, MacGill-Queens’university press, 1971

[8] It didn’t, and remarkably enough, Louis Dausset, on budget Committee was stating as soon as 1909

    “When we built the Metropolitan and encouraged the development of trams, we gave our citizens and visitors a taste for moving around…So underground transport does nothing to reduce surface movement in Paris; on the contrary, it multiply it” ([7] citing C.M. report no 128, 1909).

Among Haussmann’s achievement was also the reorganization of the Public transit services, with the creation of the Compagnie Generale d’Omnibus created at the occasion of the universal exposition of 1855, this on a model not much different of the one used by Seoul, Korea.

[9] To give some substance on the level of Traffic, around 10,750 horses drawing vehicle/day has been counted on the Boulevard des Italiens in 1840 ([7] citing L’œuvre du baron Haussmann, Louis Reau, 1954)

[10] the Compagnie de l’Ouest very quickly developed suburban services from gare Saint Lazare. In 1869, It was by far the busiest railway station of Paris, handling 13,254,000 a year-more than 80% of them being commuters. The other 6 Paris termini together handled no more than 21,417,000 ([7] citing La gare du Nord, René Clozier, (a priori a PhD thesis of 1940))

[10] In his book, “L’assassinat de Paris” (1977), Louis Chevalier mentions that trees has been removed of Avenue de l’Opéra in 1955. Archive photography doesn’t confirm that. What is more probably is that the sidewalk has been reduced in 1955.