An odd day in Paris: French capital bans even-numbered vehicles for one day to reduce air pollution

 

Paris

Monday was an odd day in Paris: officially “odd” but also oddly peaceful and oddly law-abiding.

To reduce acute air pollution, half the private cars and motor-bikes and almost all trucks were banned from the roads of the French capital and its inner suburbs. On Monday, only odd-numbered vehicles were allowed.

Tuesday was to have been the turn of the “evens” but the Government decided that the scheme was so successful that it could be abandoned after only one day.

By Monday afternoon, 4,000 motorists had been given 22 euro instant fines for driving illegal, even-numbered cars. The police said that this was far fewer offences than they had expected.

The partial ban – implemented for the first time since 1997 – applied to all French-registered private cars and motor-bikes but not to foreign cars The partial ban – implemented for the first time since 1997 – applied to all French-registered private cars and motor-bikes but not to foreign cars (AFP) The standard 170 miles of traffic jams on the approach to Paris on a working day were reduced to 60 miles or less yesterday morning. Airparif, the agency which checks air quality, said that there had been “a sharp fall” in the minuscule particles in the atmosphere which have pushed Paris – and large swathes of France – over the recommended safety levels since last Wednesday.

Read more: Comment: In praise of smog

As a result, the Government decided that a second day of restrictions was not needed. What a pity.

A bizarre calm fell on the main thoroughfares of the capital. Even the inner ring-road, or Boulevard Péripherique, generally jammed for large parts of the day, acquired the sedate spaciousness of a rural dual-carriageway.

Sebastien, a 34-year-old insurance worker who usually drives into the La Défence office ghetto just west of Paris, said: “I had to beg a lift with a friend who has an odd-numbered car. He is going to come with me tomorrow. For a couple of days, people don’t mind too much. But this is not a solution to the problem. Everyone knows there are too many diesel cars in France. When is the government going to do something about that?”

A view of the Eiffel tower from the Parc de Belleville in Paris. There have been concerns of a worsening air quality after a week when unseasonally balmy weather boosted pollution in the capital A view of the Eiffel tower from the Parc de Belleville in Paris. There have been concerns of a worsening air quality after a week when unseasonally balmy weather boosted pollution in the capital (Reuters) Paris, it should be pointed out, is not yet Beijing. Nor is it Los Angeles or London in the days of the great “smogs” of the 1960s or 1970s. The pollution is largely invisible. The French capital, although a little chillier, basked in bright sunlight for the fourth day in a row.

Nonetheless, the European Environment Agency reported last week that there were 147 microgrammes of “particulate matter” for every cubic metre of air in Paris - compared with 114 in Brussels, 104 in Amsterdam, 81 in Berlin and 79.7 in London.

This was blamed partly on the sunny, windless weather which had placed a roof of warm air over northern France. The dangerous level of “particulate” pollution is also blamed on emissions from agriculture, industry and, above all, the diesel-engine cars which represent 60 per cent of the French fleet.

Since last Friday, Parisians have been advised to keep very small children and elderly people at home and not to exercise to strenuously in the open air. Many of the joggers in Paris parks yesterday wore masks.

Armelle, 27, said that she was “much too addicted” to give up her daily run. “Maybe I’ll only run every second day like the cars,” she said. “My birthday is an on odd number so I am OK to exercise today.”

The partial ban – implemented for the first time since 1997 – applied to all French-registered private cars and motor-bikes but not foreign cars.

There were also exemptions for emergency vehicles, taxis, electric or hybrid cars and those carrying three people or more. All trucks were banned except emergency vehicles and those carrying perishable goods.

The air pollution crisis has kickstarted a debate which has long been avoided in France on the country’s dependence on diesel cars. Delphine Batho, a former Socialist environment minister, said yesterday that the government must risk further unpopularity and increase taxation on diesel fuel. Unlike most European countries, diesel is substantially cheaper than petrol in France.

The only political challenge to yesterday’s partial driving ban came from the far right National Front which accused the government of penalising “ordinary people”. There was much grumbling, however, on right-wing or pro-motorist websites.

One anonymous contributor to a forum in the right-wing Le Figaro said that the pollution problem in Paris was not caused by cars at all. The real culprits, the contributor said, were Roma immigrants burning wood in their encampments around the capital.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links