This article was written by Liz Dwyer and first appeared on takepart Honking cars, blaring sirens, revving truck engines, and lung-choking exhaust fumes—that’s the norm on the streets surrounding the Eiffel Tower and along the Champs-Élysées. After all, Paris has some of the worst traffic congestion of any city on Earth. But on Sunday residents in the City of Lights bid adieu to vehicles in several central neighborhoods and around its world-famous landmarks, thanks to its inaugural car-free day.
From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. all traffic, except for emergency vehicles and taxis, was banned in four districts and around major landmarks. As a result, thousands of Parisians took to the streets, walking, jogging, biking, or skateboarding against a backdrop of striking blue skies. To help folks around the world see the drastic shift from noisy, clogged streets to a pedestrian playground, photographer and filmmaker Olivier Pascaud captured before-and-after footage of five locations: the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, the Place de la Bastille, the Palais Garnier Opera House, and the Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre.
“Some people were excited or having a good time, others like me were irritated by the taxis,” Pascaud wrote in email to TakePart about the mood on the streets during the day without cars. “They banned private cars in the center of Paris, but they didn’t ban taxis.”