Paris car ban lifted after just one day

Place Charles de Gaulle, Paris, France
Credits: All images courtesy of Google Earth
18 Mar, 2014 10:31am Joe Finnerty

City car ban helps cut pollution while police issue 4,000 fines

Paris has lifted its car ban after just one day with police issuing almost 4,000 fines as pollution fell back below the safe limit.

Motorists with even-numbered licence plates had been prohibited from driving in the smog-filled capital on Monday, with restrictions expected to be reversed to even-numbered plates on Tuesday and so on.

But after just one day and 3,859 drivers who chose to ignore the strict regulations stopped by police, French officials have lifted the ban.

Congestion in the city was 60 per cent lower than normal while a cooler climate also helped to disperse the dangerous pollution. French transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said: "This is a public health problem ... we thank everyone who fell into line."

The strict regulations had aimed to halve the number of cars in the city after pollution rose to double the safe levels. Hundreds of police officers patrolled the morning rush-hour handing out on-the-spot €22 (£18) fines to those with the wrong plates. 

But many drivers in Paris and its suburbs chose to flout the rules and pay the fine, which equated to less than the daily congestion charge in London over a week. Officers racked up €80,000 in fines on the day.

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The congestion charge is £10 a day while a wider low-emission zone covers most of Greater London. Drivers with cars that fail the required safe pollution levels must pay to drive within it.

An ultra-low emission zone is being planned by Mayor Boris Johnson, too, with the aim for every vehicle driving in London during working hours to emit zero or extremely low CO2 emissions by 2020. This would prevent London having to enforce a Paris-style ban.

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In France, it was the first time since 1997 that such a drastic ban had been introduced after pollution particulates were recorded at double the safe limit and in-line with Beijing.

Paris made its rental bike and electric car scheme free along with public transport while the cities of Caen, Grenoble, Reims and Rouen  announced similar measures.

Electric or hybrid cars were exempt from the ban, as were taxis, buses, and emergency vehicles. Cars carrying three or more people can also travel regardless of their number plate, in a bid to encourage car-sharing.

The smoggy conditions were initially caused by a combination of cold nights and warm, sunny days, which have prevented pollution from dispersing.

Police stop over 5,000 drivers for lane hogging and tailgating

Environmental groups say the continued tax breaks offered by the Government for diesel cars has resulted in the recent pollution rise, with 67 per cent of French motorists driving diesels which are more harmful than their petrol counterparts.

The pollution was made up predominantly of PM10 particulates – created by vehicles, heating and heavy industry – can cause asthma attacks, heart defects and respiratory problems while the World Health Organisation has said finer particulates – known as PM2.5 – are cancer-causing.