Paris, by Flickr user Alexandre Dulaunoy (Used under CC License)
In cities across the world, many governments are promoting electric cars as a way to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
But electric cars aren’t the only option for keeping urban dwellers mobile while reducing the carbon footprint of transportation.
Public transit, bikes, scooters, and car-sharing services can all offer alternatives to traditional vehicle ownership.
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Paris is one example of a city where all of these alternatives have coalesced into a legitimate competitor to cars, according to Automotive News (subscription required).
The French capital now has about 450 miles of bike lanes, and pedicabs are a popular option for tourists.
Bike-sharing service Velib now boasts nearly 23,000 bicycles at roughly 1,800 stations, and many Parisians get around on scooters as well.
Paris tram by Flickr user Metro Centric (Used under CC License)
On the public transit side, Paris already has an extensive Metro subway system and intercity passenger rail—including the famous, 200-mph TGV high-speed trains.
That is now being augmented with new tram lines, as well as water taxis.
Paris also boasts Autolib, the electric-car sharing service run by the Bolloré Group conglomerate.
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There are currently 4,019 Bolloré Bluecars in operation, with 1,085 charging stations and 6,139 parking spots.
Bolloré opened a version of this service under the BlueIndy banner in Indianapolis last year, and may continue expanding.
The availability of these alternatives allowed Paris to enact its first “day without cars” last September.
Bolloré BlueCar electric car used for Autolib’ car-sharing service in Paris, September 2012
All non-electric cars were banned from the city center for seven hours that day.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo hopes to launch another car-free day, encompassing a larger area. She ultimately plans to reduce the number of cars on Paris streets, and eliminate diesel engines from the city.
Like other European countries, diesels have been exceedingly popular in France for decades because of their fuel economy.
MORE: France Expands Electric-Car Bonus To Scrap 10-Year-Old Diesel Cars (Oct 2015)
But greater understanding of the negative impact on air quality from diesel exhaust, especially in millions of older vehicles subject to less stringent emission controls, has created a backlash.
That has included calls by national-government officials to eliminate the tax advantage that diesel fuel currently enjoys compared to gasoline.
In addition to shifting government attitudes, Paris has other qualities that make it well suited to alternative forms of transportation.
The city is notoriously difficult to drive in, with narrow streets and aggressive local drivers, including the legendary Parisian cabbies.
Parking is also an issue, one that is only exacerbated by the increasing use of spaces for car-sharing services, scooters, and bicycles.
And that should offer Parisians even more of an incentive to leave their personal cars behind, and give those alternatives a try.
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