Paris car ban imposed after pollution hits high


Hugh Schofield in Paris: "At the end of last week it was bad - you really felt it catch in your throat"

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Hundreds of police monitored traffic in Paris on Monday after high pollution levels prompted the French government to impose major restrictions.

Only motorists with odd-numbered number plates were allowed to drive.

Those with those even-numbered plates will be allowed to travel on Tuesday after the success of Monday's initiative led to a fall in pollution.

Ministers acted after air pollution exceeded safe levels for five days running in Paris and surrounding areas.

But the environment ministry said lower traffic levels during throughout Monday and a change in weather conditions had significantly improved the smog which has descended on Paris over the past week.

The smoggy conditions have been caused by a combination of cold nights and warm days, which have prevented pollution from dispersing.

On the scene

It is not hard to spot even-numbered registration plates on the streets of Paris. Plenty of people seem to have decided to chance it. Either they reckoned their journey was too important to cancel, or the risk of a 22-euro (£18) fine was not enough to concern them.

But overall it seems Parisians are playing the game. Most cars on the roads are indeed odd-plated, and traffic seems lighter than usual. Fewer vehicles means fewer particles, so presumably the measure is having an effect.

It is hard to criticise a measure whose aim is to protect people's health. But there are legitimate questions over the timing of the alternate driving scheme. Pollution levels peaked at the end of last week, and were already falling. So why now?

Could the Paris mayoral elections next weekend possibly have anything to do with it? Surely not.

The measure has been tried once before, in 1997. Paris air quality monitoring body Airparif says it had a noticeable impact on improving air quality, although critics have disputed its findings.

Motorcycles were also covered by the ban, which ran from 05:30 (04:30 GMT) to midnight. There were exceptions for taxis, commercial electric and hybrid vehicles and for cars carrying three or more passengers.

Those flouting the restrictions faced a small fine. There was free parking for those with number-plates ending in an even number.

About 700 police ran nearly 180 control points around the Paris region, correspondents say, handing out tickets to offenders. Police were reported to have ticketed nearly 4,000 people by midday on Monday, and 27 drivers had their cars impounded for refusing to co-operate with officers.

Delivery companies are already complaining of lost income, BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield says. Politically the stakes are high, with elections for Paris mayor due to start next week.

A police officer inspects a vehicle in Paris (17 March 2014) Pollution offending drivers received fines and in some cases has their vehicles impounded
An electronic road sign reads "Road traffic forbidden for even-numbered licence plates" on the Paris ring road Drivers on Monday were confronted by signs warning them that those with even-numbered licence plates were not allowed on the roads

Opposition leader Jean-Francois Cope complained that the ban lacked "coherence, explanation and on the ground it's really panic".

On Friday, public transport was made free of charge for three days in an attempt to encourage people to leave their cars at home. This measure continued on Monday.

The capital's air quality has been one of the worst on record, French environmental agencies say, rivalling the Chinese capital, Beijing, one of the world's most polluted cities.

BBC Weather's Matt Taylor explains how smog is formed

On Friday, pollution levels hit 180 microgrammes of PM10 particulates per cubic metre, more than double the safe limit of 80.

PM10 particulates are emitted by vehicles, heating systems and heavy industry.

Officials say one heavy rainfall would have more effect than a one-day ban.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    When will we realise and accept that a large part of this problem in Paris and elsewhere is caused by increased use of Diesel cars? Diesels, even recent ones, far from being good for the environment produce high levels of particulate pollution and Oxides of Nitrogen that were banned in petrol cars years ago. Diesel pollution is a much greater problem than ever lead in petrol was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Don't you mean "alternate", not "alternative"? There is, of course, no alternative to the great city of Paris, whatever the weather.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Currently, we live in South Carolina but previously have lived in New Jersey, Texas and Pennsylvania. In all those places, public transport was virtually non-existent so if car use is banned, how do you get to work? I don't know what the system is like in Paris though. Another question, how can they enforce what they propose?
    Peter D

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Interesting how we blame the weather for failing to disperse the pollution we create. Maybe this is an insight into the future of this planet, since it can only get worse in the never ending battle of greed and economic supremacy, nations are engaged in. When will we get our heads out of the sand and start thinking about future generations who will inherit this filth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.


    I dont give a monkeys if public transport is cheaper.

    In any national emergency, does one rely upon state & public service to survive or escape or rely upon ones own control & INSTANT abilitys.

    Never say never, a nuke disaster can happen in UK, how will you escape & with what, fit your worldly goods/needs into a carrier bag & queue for a bus/train, or jump in a car

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Congested roads pollute the air quality a full 600 yards on either side. I once had to listen to a transport consultant triumphantly announce that they had solved the problem of congestion in Leicester CCentre by altering the traffic streams to run alongside the local parks on the edge of the CC.

    There was something not quite right about this 'triumph':)

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    I lived in Paris for a few years in the 1970s and the public transport system was so good that having a car there was virtually pointless. Mine often got parked up in the Bois de Boulogne for a week on end because there was nowhere else to leave it. I would get a taxi to fetch it at the weekend...

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Has anyone who claims that using public transport is more expensive than driving ever thought to actually research this? Where I live you can by an all-year bus ticket for £420. I doubt you can run a car for that, including purchase price, fuel, oil, MOT, repairs, insurance, parking etc. Most people seem to forget how much it costs to run a car because they don't have to pay for it every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Restrictions on human activities because of harm to the atmosphere? Can't wait to hear Melanie Phillips, Nigel Lawson et al, explain this one away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    The design of cities is now obsolete. As communities grow further away from the city centre, traffic increases to bring citizens in/out. Looking forward...every community should have its own centre...shops, etc. Mini buses would work better here too. The concept of 'malls' should end as they are out of town on the periphery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    69. Fishermans_Enemy
    "I don't know why anyone would want to drive in cities."

    I've lived in London for 30 yrs, and have never owned a car. I simply don't need one, and I've saved a fortune on not buying fuel, parking, tax etc.

    Frankly, unless you live in the middle of nowhere, having a car makes you just a mug.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    If you made public transport in somewhere like London free of charge the demand would be so high it would be dangerous to try to operate it. Platforms would be overcrowded, getting on or off an under or over ground train would be impossible. Ticket pricing is used as a mechanism to reduce demand to what the system can safely manage Want to carry more, then need to build more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Why don't the authorities force drivers into the city centre and keep them there to breathe in the fumes that they have created. What! You mean you can't do that because people can make a mess but not have to live with it. After all we don't want to interfere with their humans rights now, do we? One of these days car drivers may actually realise that they make one heck of a mess. Doubt it though

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    #225 Truth

    "... much of UKs pollution is actually not created by UK but is blown in from Europe " ???

    Link please !

    ´The acid rain in Sweden is caused by air pollution in Britain and other countries of Europe. The pollution produced in Britain ends up mostly in Scandinavia - countries in northern Europe including Sweden, Norway and Denmark.´

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    I think if any anyone really wanted to tackle air pollution, public transport would be made free of charge permanently and cars banned outright in inner cities, with roads given over to bicycles and walkers.

    But the rich and the corporations wouldn't like it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Boris are you reading this?
    Boris do you care?
    Boris why are not protecting Londoners in the same way?

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    234. Park and ride works well where I live. However, I agree with you about unsustainable populations and growth. Best

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Why does anybody need to drive around Paris. Walk or get the Metro. 60 years ago virtually nobody owned a car and people used to get around cities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.


    Park & ride solves nothing, all it does is transfer polution hotspots, just that town centres will be less directly affected, but the polution has to go somewhere, so it does, it is just transfered to other areas.

    Theres no remedy until politicians & society are mature enough to deal with unsustainable populations & armagedonistic growth policys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    3 Hours ago
    Has anyone ever tried to tell a motorist to walk instead of drive? They collapse into hysterics!

    Where I live its not viable to walk everywhere and public transport is a joke stopping almost at 6pm leaving large areas of the town with no public services.

    For my family to go return trip to the shops is £16 approx, by car £2.50 so figure which option is best here.


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