Paris mayor wants to drive cars away from the Seine

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Parisians longing to take more leisurely strolls along the banks of the Seine may soon get their wish under a plan unveiled Wednesday by the city mayor.

Socialist Bertrand Delanoe wants to ban cars from a stretch of road near the Seine's Left Bank and reduce traffic on the river's Right Bank while opening up more space for strollers.

"It's about giving Parisians more opportunities for happiness," said Delanoe who unveiled his plan at city hall. "If we succeed in doing this, I believe it will profoundly change Paris."

Every day, about 40,000 vehicles roar down the two-lane street on the Right Bank of the Seine, taking in scenic views of the Eiffel Tower and passing under many of the capital's stunning bridges.

On the Left Bank, traffic is not as intense but the streets along the bank form an important link in the capital's roadway system and shutting them down is bound to cause traffic mayhem.

Delanoe said his plan would involve reconfiguring entire traffic patterns along the Right Bank, between the Louvre museum and the Morland bridge, and setting up more bus routes.

On Wednesday, architects showed off plans for new promenades along the Seine, with wide walking paths, new sports facilities, a flower market, botanical gardens and even a floating cafe.

Delanoe hopes his plan will be completed by 2012 at a coast of 40 million euros (55 million dollars).

The lanes along the Seine were built in 1967 and Delanoe has made no secret of the fact that he wanted to shut them down after his re-election as mayor in 2008.

In 2007, he slapped a 50 kilometre (30 mile) per hour speed limit to cut down traffic.

Since he was first elected as mayor in 2001, Delanoe has pushed through several projects to turn Paris into a green city, notably a new self-service bicycle rental scheme called Velib.

The city council is to vote on the Seine banks project in June.