Paris Bans Cars as Pollution Chokes the City

Something is in the air but it is not love. Automologist MAC reports on the worst pollution that the city of romance has experienced in a decade. 

Once again the news of a city banning cars in an effort to reduce lung-clogging pollution is making the headlines. And for a change, the news is not coming out of China or India, but from the city of lovers, Paris, the capital of France.

By Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris

The city has been shrouded in a pale grey veil of dirty air that seems to be trapped over the city, obscuring the city’s famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, for a number of days now. Experts are quoted as saying that this is the longest and most intense spike in pollution in more than ten years, but worse, it is expected to continue for at least a few more days.

This is the fourth time in the past 20 years that a ban has been introduced, but the first time that it has been enforced for two consecutive days. In fact, it is not a total ban. On the first day, drivers of vehicles with odd-number plates were told to leave their vehicles at home and those driving a car with an even-number were banned the next day. Failure to comply with the ban would result in a 22 Euro fine. It wasn’t all bad news for the city’s commuting public as the Mayor made all public transport free.

The cause of the smog enshrouding the French capital is due to a number of factors that have seemingly ganged up to give the residents of the city a wheezy time. The weather is the key culprit though, as a seasonal anticyclone (a period of high barometric pressure resulting in still conditions) and a cold snap has stopped the pollution escaping as the citizens turn up the thermostats to keep warm.

Authorities claim that at least 25% of PM10 pollution comes from cars in the capital and other cities, such as Grenoble and Lyon, both of which are wrestling with similar poor air quality. For years, France had actually encouraged its citizens to use diesel vehicles as a way to reduce the carbon footprint, and encourage rural redevelopment by making diesel fuel cheaper. (See Paris Car Ban, Just a PR Gimmick?)

Authorities in France believe that at least 48,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution, with experts in the UK claiming that diesel creates about ten times the pollution of their petrol-sipping cousins.

Of course the UK is famed for its lung-clogging smog, if you are to believe Hollywood films that nearly always show the UK as foggy or raining. The truth of the matter is that the UK, and London in particular, does not suffer from poor air quality in the same way as Paris is currently suffering. And whilst I am on the subject of Hollywood’s inaccurate portrayal of my beloved city, may I just point out that London has an average of 106 rainy days a year and Paris 171. And you thought this was just a motoring blog.

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