As severe pollution hits Paris, the government has decided to impose a partial driving ban on Monday. The ban, which started at 5:30 a.m. and will continue until midnight, demands those with license plates ending in even numbers to leave their cars at home Monday, only allowing cars with odd-numbered license plates on the road. If the government decides to continue the partial driving ban on Tuesday, cars with license plates ending in even numbers will be allowed on the road.
The government’s actions are a result of severe air pollution exceeding safe levels over a period of five days. On Friday, the air pollution levels were measured at 180 micrograms of PM10 particulates per cubic meter, exceeding the limit of 80. The government then decided to allow people in Paris to travel by public transport for free for three days; however, the bright, sunny days and cold nights have prevented the pollution in the city to reduce its levels. Free public transport continued to be offered on Monday.
Hybrid and electric cars are exempted from the ban, as well as cars with three or more passengers and cars with foreign license plates. In addition, those who were prohibited to drive their cars Monday were given free parking in the city, allowing them to take public transport to their destination at no cost.
Although the government hopes to manage the pollution that hit Paris by imposing a partial driving ban, residents do not see its usefulness and are more than willing to risk the fine of $30 that police are handing out to those who are driving illegally. Jerome Thomas, who lives just outside Paris, says, “It took me two hours to drive into the city. This is three times as long as what it normally takes me. Police are stopping everyone on the road, causing huge delays. I think the pollution will be even worse than before because cars are spending more time on the roads today.”
Elections for the new mayor of Paris will start next week. Opposition leader Jean-Francoise Cope says, “There is a lack of coherence and explanation, which is why the Parisians do not understand why this is happening. It is chaos on the roads.”
Ecology Minister of France, Philippe Martin, states the partial driving ban in Paris will only last until midnight, although air pollution levels will be closely monitored during the rest of the week, possibly resulting in more driving bans. At the same time, free public transportation will end at midnight as well, as the regional government has lost $5.6 million in revenue for each day of free public transport.
The air pollution level in Paris is one of the worst in Europe. With recent levels, the city rivals severely polluted cities like Beijing and Mexico City. Over the past few days, the pollution in Paris has caused hospital visits to increase. Children, especially, are affected.
It is not the first time that the government has imposed a driving ban in Paris after air pollution hit the city. In 1997, the government enforced a similar partial driving ban, although noticeable effects were never shared with Parisian residents.
By Diana Herst