While many in North America would envy Paris for its warmer than usual temperatures lately, the pollution has sparked a thick layer of smog over the French city. To alleviate the Parisian pollution problem, free transit fares are being offered for the next three days in an effort to combat the smog.
In an effort to combat the air pollution currently plaguing the country’s capital and neighboring regions, subways, trains and buses all are free from today through to Sunday, March 16. Bike-shares, or the renting of a bike for short-term use, are also free, as are electric car-shares for an hour.
The European Environment Agency says the murky yellow skies over Paris, Caen and Rouen are symptomatic of the worst air pollution France has seen in the last seven years. Because of the windless warm days and the cold clear nights, Paris has seen an invisible lid lock down over its surroundings, trapping particulate matter in the air and making the very act of breathing quite hazardous.
The free transit fares for the next three days are an effort to try and alleviate the current situation, which is not helped by Europe’s infatuation with the diesel-powered car. In offering free transit fares to Paris, Caen and Rouen, the hope is that millions will take advantage of the free rides and leave their cars parked.
Generally, pollution in Paris never reaches the dire situation it has in this circumstance, but the unseasonably warm March has not helped matters. It appears as though a thick curtain has descended over the beloved tourist destination of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and everything from reducing intensive outdoor activities to driving slowly has been suggested as a method of cutting individual risk to the dangers of the smog, which range from trouble breathing to trouble seeing.
One study claims that up to 40,000 deaths yearly are as a result of the significant air pollution in France, and given that diesel fuels are not taxed as heavily as others, this trend is likely to continue, as diesel vehicles have been a mainstay of the French roads since the 1960s. In addition, diesel fuels tend to pollute far more than regular fuels do, so there tends to be more particulate matter in the air from diesel-powered vehicles.
Even as a murky yellow veil seems to hang over the City of Lights, there seems to be greater hope for the reduction of the air pollution in Paris, thanks to the free transit fares being offered this weekend. It is believed that the three days of free transit fares, should the million or so people expected to take advantage actually hop on the metro, will work wonders in reducing the high air pollution currently hanging over the city. It is unknown yet if the suggestion of suspended intense activity will apply to the upcoming France-Ireland rugby international game Saturday night, but with luck, the smog will lift thanks to the free transit rides being offered. Rain is not expected in the forecast until late next week, so the unseasonable warmth and sunshine looks like it is going to continue, and potentially the smog with it.
By Christina St-Jean