Changes at Place de la Bastille

The Place de la Bastille is one of several squares in Paris that have been completely rearranged in recent years, to reduce the amount of space devoted to motor traffic and increase the space allotted to pedestrians and cyclists.

Cycling at the updated Place de la Bastille

The July Column, at the center of the square, was previously inaccessible because it was blocked on all sides by motor vehicles careening wildly around it at high speeds with little semblance of order.

Cycling over to the July Column

Now all the motor traffic has been routed around three sides of the square, leaving the fourth (south) side free and creating a pedestrian ‘peninsula’ reaching from the July Column to the Port of the Arsenal. The new crossings for cyclists and pedestrians are both shorter and wider than the old ones, and the space devoted to cars has been reduced by 40 %. A new bi-directional cycling path leads all around the peninsula.

Inscription at the base of the column

For the first time, I was able to get close enough to the July Column to read the inscription at its base. It says (unsurprisingly):

To the glory
of the French citizens
who armed themselves and fought
for the defense of the public liberties
in the memorable days
of the 27th 28th 29th July 1830

These three days, which led to the replacement of King Charles X by the more popular King Louis-Philippe, have since become known as Les Trois Glorieuses, the Glorious Three.

By analogy, the three decades of rapid economic growth after the Second World War are sometimes called Les Trente Glorieuses, the Glorious Thirty.

As I have written elsewhere, “to those of us who grew up during ‘The Glorious Thirty’, rapid economic expansion seemed like a perfectly normal state of affairs, and we were perplexed (some of us more than others) when it ground to a halt sometime in the 1970s.”

March for Peace

March for Peace at the Place de la Bastille

Like the Place de la République, which was rearranged and renovated several years ago, the newly expanded pedestrian peninsula at the Place de la Bastille is becoming a popular gathering place for celebrations, protests and rallies. When I was there, on a Sunday afternoon in September, a rally called “March for Peace” was in progress at the foot of the July Column.

March for Peace on one of the nearby bus lanes

After the rally, they went on a short march in the immediate vicinity of the Place de la Bastille. Note the two marshals walking at the right and left in the first row. They were wearing suits and ties and red armbands, and they stand head-and-shoulders taller than any of the other marchers.

DPCW for Peace

Some of the marchers carried the initials DPCW. Later I looked them up and found that they stand for “Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War”.

Other marchers carried signs with the initials HWPL, meaning “Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light” — a group which describes itself as an “international peace NGO [non-governmental organization] founded for global peace and cessation of war.” So the HWPL is the organization and the DPCW is their declaration.

The HWPL was founded in South Korea (and has a postal address in Seoul), but it also has adherents in Africa and the Caribbean and in several Pacific island countries — and in Paris, evidently. The participants in the rally and march were exclusively Black people.

Drummers and dancers in the March for Peace

Just from looking through its website, I have the impression that the HWPL is for religious people — of different religions — who have chosen to emphasize the similarities of their beliefs rather than the differences. In this respect, it reminds me of the Cao Dai religion, which I first learned about in Vietnam in the 1960s.

My photos and text in this post are from 2022.

See also: The square of Gavroche’s elephant.

10 thoughts on “Changes at Place de la Bastille”

  1. Only just caught up with this! It’s good to see access to the column improved. They created a similar pedestrian peninsula in Trafalgar Square years ago (although there the road is also closed to cyclists) and it’s so much better. The march looks interesting. The costumes of the dancers are very like those we saw at a carnival parade in the Cape Verde islands.

    1. Thanks for your visit and comment, and for the link to the book cover. Yes, in the 1960s the ‘glorious thirty’ were still in full swing.

  2. Overall, I think the improved support for cyclists is a good thing but this year when I returned to Paris, I quickly learned to look both ways when stepping off a curb since the bike lanes are right next to the sidewalk and bikers are coming from both directions. Luckily, I didn’t get clobbered as I gazed at the beautiful surroundings.

    1. Yes, we all (as pedestrians) have to learn to look both ways and not just navigate the cities by ear. This has already been the case for many years in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and now also in Paris.

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