THE Grands Boulevards in Paris are to become two-way streets for the first time in more than 60 years in a bid to cut accidents, improve pedestrian safety and provide easier routes for public transport and bicycles.
Boulevards Montmartre, Poissonnière, Bonne Nouvelle and Saint-Denis will be the first affected and will be two-way roads by the end of the year.
At the moment the boulevards are vast four or five-lane solid blocks of traffic - very difficult for pedestrians to cross and which cut off whole city districts from their neighbours.
The new €4 million project will see them reshaped to provide a bus lane open to cyclists and two lanes of traffic heading east-west and, in the opposite direction, one lane of traffic, a cycle path and a parking zone.
Annick Lepetit, deputy mayor with responsibility for transport, said the plans would be a "boost for shopkeepers" and allow better access for residents.
Work started last night between Boulevard de Sébastopol and Place de la République and local traders' federation representative Bruno Blanckaert told Le Croix newspaper it would "get rid of an urban motorway that had far too many accidents".
The federation has been calling for the change for more than 15 years and treasurer Aurèle Sarfati said it would have a positive impact on traders as traffic would "no longer be hurtling past but would have time to look in our windows".