Madrid bans half of cars to fight smog

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Madrid

Madrid’s city hall on Wed­nes­day an­nounced that it had or­dered half of most pri­vate cars off the roads to fight pol­lu­tion, a first in Spain.

From Thurs­day, “ve­hi­cles with even-num­ber reg­is­tra­tion plates will be al­lowed to drive around on even-num­ber days and cars with odd­num­ber reg­is­tra­tion plates on odd-num­ber days,” it said in a state­ment.

The mea­sure will be re-eval­u­ated on a daily ba­sis de­pend­ing on pol­lu­tion lev­els.

It is ac­ti­vated when lev­els of harm­ful ni­tro­gen diox­ide in the at­mos­phere go above 200 mi­cro­grammes per cu­bic me­ter in at least two mea­sur­ing sta­tions for two days run­ning, and if the air is un­likely to clear im­mi­nently.

There are ex­cep­tions to the ban, such as for mopeds, hy­brid cars, those car­ry­ing three peo­ple or more or used by dis­abled peo­ple.

Buses, taxis and emer­gency ve­hi­cles are also ex­empt.

“It’s not about traf­fic re­stric­tions but about the im­por­tant is­sue of public health,” said Deputy Mayor Marta Higueras.

“Lots of peo­ple suf­fer from breath­ing prob­lems and are very af­fected by pol­lu­tion.”

With 3.2 mil­lion res­i­dents and some 1.8 mil­lion cars, Madrid of­ten suf­fers from bad bouts of pol­lu­tion.

The move to ban half the cars from the roads is level three out of four an­tipol­lu­tion mea­sures.

Level four also bans taxis from the city, bar those us­ing hy­brid cars.

The mea­sure im­ple­mented by the city hall, led by an al­liance of left­ist groups since 2015, sparked crit­i­cism from the con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Party which ruled Madrid for nearly a quar­ter cen­tury and gov­erns at the na­tional level.

Inigo Hen­riquez de Luna, PP spokesman in Madrid’s lo­cal par­lia­ment, slammed it as “ide­o­log­i­cal” and said au­thor­i­ties should do more to en­cour­age res­i­dents to avoid us­ing their cars rather than pun­ish them.

The move fol­lows a sim­i­lar de­ci­sion by French cap­i­tal Paris ear­lier this month.

SUSANA VERA / REUTERS

A car stops next to a park­ing me­ter dis­play­ing a sign that reads “High pol­lu­tion lev­els. For­bid­den to park” in cen­tral Madrid, Spain, on Wed­nes­day.

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