Paris restricts traffic to reduce pollution

Electronic road sign reads, "Road traffic forbidden for even-numbered licence plates", Paris ring road, 23 March 2015.
Electronic road sign reads, "Road traffic forbidden for even-numbered licence plates", Paris ring road, 23 March 2015. Reuters/Charles Platiau

The French capital on Monday adopted an emergency traffic-limiting measure to reduce pollution in the Paris sky, using a system which stops one in every two cars entering the capital.


Only vehicles with number plates ending in an odd number could enter Paris this Monday.

Paris city mayor Anne Hidalgo requested the measure on Thursday but the government only agreed to the restrictions on Saturday.

Paris authorities mobilized about 750 policemen on Monday to implement the measure in the capital and near suburbs.

Amongst Monday's anti-pollution measures are free public transportation and free car parking for the locals.

Such a traffic-limiting measure is extremly rare in Paris - the last time it was implemented was a year ago.

In London, which also suffered a toxic air pollution cloud last week,  the efforts of the mayor's office are directed at reducing pollution from public buses.

On Tuesday, some rain is expected to clear dangerous particles from the Paris air and reduce the pollution level.

"Because of an improvement today, the alternating traffic system won't be continued tomorrow" said Ségolène Royal, the French minister of ecology.

In Paris, it's the concentration of particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns (PM10) that determines air pollution levels.

They are mostly created by vehicles, heating and industry.

The safe limit for PM10 is 80 microgrammes per cubic metre.

On Monday, the air pollution level was above the warning threshold of 50 mcg/m3.

                          Anti-pollution measures in European capitals

  • Germany: Since 2010 in Berlin, an "ecological area" in the city centre where only vehicles with a green sticker can enter.
  • Britain:A congestion toll implemented in London city centre since 2003.
  • Greece: Since 1982, an alternating traffic system in Athens.
  • Hungary: An alternating traffic system was implemented in Budapest but in 2010 a new system was introduced with green, red or black stickers on cars.
  • Italy: An alternating traffic system in Rome since the 90s and restricted traffic areas in historic town centres.
  • Portugal: There are some restricted traffic areas in the historic town centre of Lisbon for vehicles manufactured before 2000.  Doesn't apply to residents.
  • Scandinavia: Congestion toll in Sweden; bike paths in Denmark; congestion toll and electric cars in Norway.


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