Paris bans 50% of cars from the roads — guess why

Paris smog outskirts
CC BY 2.0 Damián Bakarcic

Thanks to severe levels of air pollution for 5 consecutive days, Paris has just put in place a day-to-day ban on about 50% of cars, motorcycles, and trucks. Electric cars, hybrid cars, taxis, and cars including 3 or more passengers are exempt.

Using a system commonly used in China, vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers are banned from the roads today. Tomorrow, it switches to those ending with even numbers. The length of the ban will depend on the change in pollution levels.

The key type of pollution driving the ban (no pun intended) is PM10 particles, which are each fewer than 10 micrometers in diameter. "The safe limit is 80 microgrammes of PM10 particulates per cubic metre, but on Friday, the level peaked at 180 microgrammes prompting authorities to urge people to stay indoors as much as possible and to leave their cars at home," The Guardian writes.

To try to cut pollution levels, the government also offered free trips on public transit over the weekend and until the ban is over.

To implement the ban, which is the first such ban in Paris since 1997, 700 police officers at 60 checkpoints are being deployed. Nonetheless, many people opposed to the ban have said that they aren't going to respect it and would rather pay the fine (€22), or have their employers pay the fine, than spend a much longer time commuting to their jobs or elsewhere.

Aside from vehicles, PM10 particles are caused by industry and heating. Additionally, cold nights combined with warm days keep the pollution from dispersing. Respiratory problems, such as asthma attacks, and heart problems are common health problems that result from such pollution.

Business Green notes that there is a lot of pressure being put on London Mayor Boris Johnson to find a way to reduce similar smog in London. In response to the Paris ban, Green Party London Assembly member Baroness Jenny Jones tweeted, "Paris taking emergency action this wkend. Boris Johnson can't even be bothered to alert schools to smog threat."

Paris bans 50% of cars from the roads — guess why
Only half of Parisian automobile owners can drive on any given day of the week, starting today. The length of the 50% ban is uncertain.

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