Paris to ban traffic when pollution levels peak

Last week, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo rejoiced as France’s Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal agreed to institute cuts to traffic in Paris when pollution levels peak.

Royal had previously called for the bans to be introduced after three consecutive days of high pollution levels, but later conceded that the bans, which will allocate alternate driving days for cars based on odd or even registration plate numbers, will be installed “whenever the region and city authorities demand it.”

The move was gladly received by Hidalgo, who has been an ardent supporter of stricter anti-pollution measures on Parisian roads.  She rolled out a similar ban earlier this year, after Plume Labs determined that the concentration of potentially dangerous particulates in the air had risen so high that Paris became the most polluted city in the world for a few hours on March 18.

In fact, a 2014 study carried out by air quality monitoring network Airparif in conjunction with the city of Paris found that the air quality in the city was so poor that it was as hazardous to a person’s health as being in “a 20-square-meter room with eight smokers.”   

Paris on March 18, 2015. Can you spot the Eiffel Tower?
Paris on March 18, 2015.  Can you spot the Eiffel Tower?

In an effort to tackle these alarming pollution levels, Hidalgo and city authorities hosted “Une Journée Sans Voiture” (A Day Without Cars) on September 27.  From 11 am to 6 pm local time, all motorized vehicles, with the exception of ambulances, were prohibited from Parisian streets.  

“All the most popular tourist spots, usually crowded, will be fully dedicated to pedestrians who will be able to discover a new Paris,” the city advertised in the lead-up to the car-free day.

Traffic was banned in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 10th, and 11th arrondissements (neighborhoods), the Champs-Élysées, Place de la Bastille, Place de la Republique, Place Stalingrad, the Bois de Vincennes and Boulogne, the Left Bank, and the area around the Eiffel Tower.  According to Airparif, parts of the city witnessed a nearly 40% drop in nitrogen dioxide levels as a result of this initiative.  


Such efforts to curb air pollution have been received positively by Parisians.

“If we want a city that is clean, beautiful and green… I believe that we must not hesitate to ban and thus limit cars in the city,” said one French cyclist, Renaud, who supported “Une Journée Sans Voiture.”

Paris is not alone in partaking in this initiative.  A growing number of cities, including Montreal, Bogotá, Ho Chi Minh City, Brussels, and Mexico City, have launched similar Day Without Cars programs.

As Paris prepares to host the United Nations World Climate Conference (COP21) in December, it comes as no surprise that the city is making every effort to be as green as possible.  Billed as the world’s biggest climate change conference yet, COP21 seeks to produce an international agreement on dramatic measures to curb greenhouse gases and keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

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