Smog-Choked Metropolis Kicks Half of Cars off the Road

Officials in Paris aren’t giving a Gallic shrug to air pollution from vehicles.
The Eiffel Tower seen through thick smog. (Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 21, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Thanks to noxious air pollution, the City of Light isn’t living up to its nickname these days. A thick blanket of smog has been obscuring views of famous Paris landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and clogging the lungs of inhabitants and tourists alike. Now local officials are putting the kibosh on driving around the metropolis for half of city residents.

“I am delighted the state has agreed to put in place a partial driving ban on Monday, which I have been requesting for several days,” tweeted Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Saturday, reported France24. The ban had to be approved by the French government, so Hidalgo spent much of the past week urging the Gallic nation’s politicians to quickly make a decision. “The health of Parisians cannot be negotiated,” she tweeted on Thursday.

As a result, starting on Monday, only vehicles with an odd-numbered license plate will be allowed on roads in the French capital. The ban will only impact personal vehicles—all taxis and emergency vehicles will still be allowed.

This isn’t the first time Paris, which has some of the worst traffic congestion in the world, has kicked pollution-generating vehicles off the road. Last March, when smog reached dangerous levels and obscured the Eiffel Tower, personal cars were similarly booted. The seemingly drastic measure worked: Fine particle emissions were reduced by 6 percent during the reduced-traffic time period.

Although that driving ban was temporary, French officials are experimenting with ways to get drivers to ditch their vehicles for good. In June the government launched an initiative to pay 10,000 people to bike to work. This time around, perhaps in an effort to encourage people to think about more environmentally friendly ways to commute, French officials are offering free rides on public transportation to everyone on Monday.