Climate change and bike paths propel greens to municipal power in France

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Anne Hidalgo was re-elected mayor of Paris on Sunday June 28 with an increased majority proving that tame candidates can win and keep power. She won just under half of the votes cast in the French capital and, although she was a socialist candidate, her victory should be seen in the wider context of the Greens’ victories across France.

The candidates from Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) have won in Lyon, Strasbourg, Besançon, Poitiers, Annecy and Tours. In Marseille, the second largest city in France, the Greens have won the most seats on city council and could win the post of mayor later this week.

“Today, ecology is taking a giant step,” said EELV secretary Julien Dayou in a press release, adding that the party now has “the mandate to act for climate and social justice” .

In Paris, Hidalgo had the support of the EELV and was de facto the “green” candidate. His social housing projects have proved popular, but his flagship policy is deeply green: transforming Paris into a friendly city, based on the transport changes “Plan Vélo” made during his first mandate, which includes the abolition of space for cars and increased space for cyclists and pedestrians.

Hidalgo made the fight against climate change and air pollution the key elements of his electoral campaign. After her overwhelming victory, she said voters had chosen to make Paris greener.

“You have chosen hope, teamwork, a Paris that breathes, it’s better to live,” she said in a speech to supporters.

Among his projects for his six-year term, there is a bicycle path for each street in the French capital and protected bicycle paths for all of the city’s bridges.

“If you liked season 1 [of Plan Vélo] , you’re going to love season 2, “she insisted earlier this year.

In January, Hidalgo revealed that the space needed to make Paris accessible to cyclists would be mainly at the expense of the automobile. As part of its projects, Paris will eliminate most of its street parking spaces.

And other French cities could now follow suit.

EELV candidates across France supported cycling, aiming for “decarbonisation of transport”.

And the “ecological” parties are also doing well elsewhere in Europe. In Ireland, the Green Party entered the coalition government last week.

Chef Eamon Ryan, former owner of a bicycle shop, said under the coalition agreement 20% of the Irish transport budget would go for walking and cycling, while two-thirds of the rest would go public transport.

Over the next five years, cycling and walking programs, including sheltered cycling networks and widened sidewalks, will receive € 360 million annually.

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