Paris limits vehicle use to fight pollution
Paris announced license-plate-based driving restrictions for a third day in a row on Wednesday and planned to expand a ban on old cars, as the French capital experienced its worst air pollution in a decade.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Paris banned cars from the road based on whether their license plates ended with odd or even numbers. It will ban half of all traffic again on Thursday.
The air quality index in Paris from Tuesday to Thursday was between 130 and 150.
The level of PM10 — particulate matter that is less than 10 microns in diameter and harmful to health — was at 80 or more micrograms per cubic meter on Wednesday and Thursday, and the same level was forecast for Friday.
Other French cities such as Lyon were also planning bans as clouds of pollution hang over many European cities due to a lack of the winds that normally blow in off the Atlantic Ocean.
It is only the fourth time in 20 years that Paris has imposed such a ban, and the first time it applies for consecutive days. Municipalities around Paris also imposed the ban.
With its famous Eiffel Tower shrouded in a grayish haze and some tourists donning masks, the city also made all public transportation, residential parking and bicycle and electric car programs free.
“Cars are poisoning the air. We need to take preventive measures,” said Herve Levife, a Paris transportation official.
The city also planned to step up its fight against chronic pollution by gradually banning the oldest and most polluting vehicles from the city center, he said.
“We want these bans to automatically take effect when the pollution exceeds a certain level, not have to negotiate them with the government each time,” Levife added.
From mid-January, Paris will become the first French city to launch a system that will require all cars to have a colorcoded sticker indicating their age and pollution level. The stickers will allow police to control which vehicles can drive in the city center.
Cars 20 years old and older have already been banned from Paris roads since July 1, and around 120,000 stickers have been distributed. But participation in the program so far has been voluntary, and enforcement is scarce.
Beginning July 1, the city will impose bans on diesel-powered cars and vans that were first put into circulation in 2001 and trucks first registered in 2006.
French police check an auto registration in Paris on Tuesday after authorities imposed restrictions on vehicle use based on license numbers to reduce traffic and pollution.
Smog obscures the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday as Paris saw its worst pollution in a decade.