The week started, continued, and ended on the Seine. Weather so freezing I dug out a hat; it happens to sport the Union Jack, a reminder that Theresa May would be talking about Brexit at Davos. Hard or soft, so far nobody in Paris has lynched me… yet. Although friends and colleagues do raise an ironic eyebrow: “Oh, so you’re still here?!”
On Tuesday, journalists boarded Le Bistro Parisien, a chic vessel moored at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, for the Navigo+Batobus partnership launch. During her speech I sensed tension over mobility matters between Valérie Pécresse, the Conservative (UMP Les Républicains) president of Région Ile-de-France and the Stif transport authority, and Anne Hidalgo, Socialist mayor of Paris.
“The Région’s approach to transport is to incite change,” insisted Ms Pécresse, alluding to the mayor’s more forceful and controversial decisions – such as outlawing cars registed before 1997 and closing off stretches of Seine river bank to motorised traffic – moves some consider are contributing towards the boboïsation of Paris.
Later in the week, in Friday’s edition of ‘Le Parisien’, the Conservative Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet also had it in for the mayor. “Paris is a city stressed out by Anne Hidalgo’s policy,” she said in reference to closure of the river banks. “Do Parisians feel that today Paris is appeased and flowing, a city where people live well, whether in terms of air or noise pollution? No […].”
In March 2014, Ms Hidalgo beat candidate Ms Kosciusko-Morizet in France’s municipal elections to become mayor of Paris, the first woman in the job.
The first round of the 2017 French presidential election will be held on April 23.
Tuesday 12.30 found me at Chartier with Tony Rodwell, fresh off the Eurostar. Besides the endives in mustard and pepper sauce, tête de veau and bottle of sparkling white (in a bucket with ice), on the menu was talk about Brexit, buses, and the Paris metro. Tony was full of praise for the multilingual announcements in the latter system, as well as its ticket machines.“They were user friendly and in working order.”
Thursday, lunch with two transport colleagues at La Mafiosa di Termoli behind Place-de-Clichy (19, rue des Dames). Fortunately it was just us three because the talk is shop most of the time. Over pizza and tiramisu we exchanged news and views on train seat arm rests, whether it’s the end of the line for trolleybuses, do politicians only use public transport when on the campaign trail, electric buses, subcontractors…
After lunch put me out into the icy streets, heading towards the Seine, again. This time aboard Gérard Feldzer‘s houseboat to work on a project for a new transport think tank. And I’m thinking: there’s been a buzz around automation technology for some time now – whether for trains, cars, trucks, or buses. But while the sales prospects of this mobility mode in the making are getting industry excited, are consumers that bothered? An initiative at this year’s ITS European Congress seeks to find out more about what people really think.
Friday afternoon, brief encounter with André Durbec, president of engineering firm Terao. The company, he tells me, has been working in the field of energy efficiency and sustainable buildings for some 30 years.
Greenwashing. It slipped out, as invariably happens when I encounter anyone who mentions sustainability. “Yes I know that word ‘greenwashing’ well,” he laughed. “And I can guarantee what we do is totally the opposite.”
“How do you say it in French?” I asked. He mentioned a few words and expressions, something that sounded like tarte à la crème. Later on, looking up on the Web I found écoblanchiment, which sounds less fun.
I remember some years ago when a greenhorn journalist, interviewing Hans Rat, at the time he was secretary general at UITP. He patiently explained that sustainability is, in a nutshell, “all about putting back what you take out in order to maintain the balance.” This is why today, given the rise in electric mobility, the service- and after-lives of batteries is a topic worth exploring. Note to self: take up the offer of talking to Yann Lelong from Green Vision.
Returning to autonomous vehicles. On Monday Jan. 23, RATP is launching further trials of driverless shuttles in Paris between the Gare d’Austerliz and Gare de Lyon railway stations. This follows on from a first demonstration of an EZ10 vehicle by Easymile, in September 2016, along the banks of the Seine.
This week’s pick:
‘Brave New World’ / Aldous Huxley
‘Comment la France a tué ses villes’ / Olivier Razemon
The Smashing Pumpkins
Cover illustration by Troy Terpstra, May 18, 2009