French government lifts partial ban on vehicle traffic in Paris

18 Mar 2014


The French government said it was lifting a partial ban on vehicle traffic in Paris as pollution levels declined from last week's peak that saw air quality at levels worse than in Beijing.

The first partial driving ban in the French capital in 17 years, cut the number of automobiles on Paris roads to half. Other anti-pollution measures would be lifted as of midnight, according to energy and environment minister Philippe Martin who spoke at a press conference.

''The measures taken, combined with good weather conditions, have led to a clear improvement,'' he said. ''The prime minister has decided not to extend the measures.''

The measures had been resorted to after fine particulates in Paris peaked at noon on 14 March at 110 micrograms per cubic meter, exceeding the level in Beijing, obscuring the Eiffel Tower and enveloping the city in a hazy shroud. At the same time the measure for particulates of 2.5 micrometres or smaller in the Chinese capital was 89, according to Air Quality Index China, while it was 172 in Shanghai.

The government clamped a ban on automobiles having even numbered licence plates on the city's roads and 22 towns surrounding it. Mass transit as also the city's bicycle and car-sharing programmes, Velib' and Autolib', were free for over three days.

Around 700 police manned 179 control points around the region and handed out tickets to offenders. Taxis and commercial vehicles, however, were not covered by the ban.

Around 4,000 people had been ticketed by midday, and 27 drivers had their cars impounded for not cooperating with the officers.

France had seen weather that has been exceptionally warm, and dry this month with little wind, which had trapped car pollution and fumes from seasonal farming activity in the air. Another contributing factor was the country's unusually high number of diesel vehicles.

According to Martin, lower traffic and favourable weather patterns were clearing the pollution. This was the first time after 1997 that the measure was taken.

Paris's antipollution efforts lag behind those of some other cities.

A similar alternate driving ban has been in place in Athens for many years and has been instrumental in reducing pollution and traffic.

A complicated system has been adopted in Sao Paulo, Brazil that employs a licence plate-based system to assign each car a day of the week when it cannot be driven during rush hours.

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