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France: 40-year campaign for eco-friendly transport

“Adapt the city to cars”, by building urban highways: this was George Pompidou’s project, symbolised in late 1971 by the desire to create a highway on the left bank of the Seine in Paris. In opposition to this, Friends of the Earth believes that this worship of the car turns city streets into deathtraps for cyclists and causes real pollution affecting all the city’s inhabitants, who have to suffer the fumes and noise.
A vélorution in paris, 1970A vélorution in Paris

Spring 1972 saw the launch of a Friends of the Earth France campaign aimed at excluding cars from cities and promoting the use of bicycles. The organisation of bicycle events, the first ‘Vélorutions’ as they were already called, gathered thousands of cyclists behind the slogan “Bagnoles, ras-le-bol. Ca pue, ça pollue et ça rend nerveux!” (Cars, we can’t stand them anymore. They stink, they pollute and they make us nervous!).


In May 1976 Friends of the Earth France’s magazine, entitled “Vive la Vélorution” (Long live the Vélorution) echoed World Cycling Day, which was organised by Friends of the Earth International in Paris, New York, London, Brussels and dozens of other cities on 5 June. Eventually, the project to build a motorway through the heart of Paris was buried and since then, cars have lost their dominant place in many cities.


In 1977, during the local electoral campaign, Friends of the Earth France campaigned for the creation of an urban traffic plan in Paris that incorporated bicycle paths and required the provision of municipal bicycles. These claims were eventually taken up 25 years later, by the Mayor of Paris.


Today, the ongoing struggle against cars in towns is part of the global campaign for transition to eco-towns and sustainable societies, a major issue for Friends of the Earth France.


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