• France's news in English
 
Paris pollution: Driving curbs to be lifted
Driving curbs in Paris that were aimed at fighting high pollution levels will not be imposed on Tuesday. Photo: Mehdi Fouach/AFP

Paris pollution: Driving curbs to be lifted

AFP · 17 Mar 2014, 16:34

Published: 17 Mar 2014 16:34 GMT+01:00

Paris on Monday banned all cars with even number plates for the first time in nearly 20 years to fight sky-high pollution but opted not to extend the measure after an improvement in air quality.

The roughly 700 police officers deployed to man 179 checkpoints around the French capital to ensure that only cars with number plates ending in odd numbers were out on the streets.

By noon police reported that they had already issued 3,800 fines to motorists who had not respected the rules, among those 27 had their cars impounded due to their "behaviour" during the checks. Another 1,800 motorists had been issued tickets for various other driving offences.

The prefecture said the operation had gone "satisfactorily" and noted many people got off with a warning.

"These figures demonstrate a large number of checks, but also of officers' discernment in considering exemptions and individual situations because the number of vehicles checked was greater than the number of tickets," Paris police authorities said in a statement. 
 
Public transport has been free since Friday to persuade Parisians to leave their cars at home, and the state railway company SNCF warned on its website of packed suburban trains at peak hours due to the extreme measure.
 
Authorities said rush hour traffic jams were down 25 percent in Paris and were 60 percent reduced at the gateways to the city as drivers grudgingly conformed to the rules. 
 
"It is sure we will have more clients today," a delighted taxi driver told AFP.

"There are people who take their car because they don't want to be pressed up against others in the metro. Today they will take a taxi."

The restrictions came into force across Paris and 22 surrounding areas from 5:30 am (0430 GMT). Bison Futé, a website the monitors taffic levels in the country reported there were half the number of traffic jams around Paris on Monday compared to a normal day of the week.

SEE ALSO: What you need to do to breathe easy in Paris

They will be reviewed on a daily basis, with odd numbers potentially banned on Tuesday if an extension is deemed necessary.

Parking will be free for vehicles with even number plates, the Paris Town Hall said, calling on residents to consult carpooling or car-sharing sites to work out their travel plans

However not everyone seemed to be aware of the ban, or chose to ignore it.

"You don't have the right to drive with your number plate," a man on a scooter remarked to another while stopped at a red light.

"Oh really? I didn't know," the second driver replied before speeding off. Those who choose to brave the ban risk a fine of €22 ($30) if paid immediately, or 35 euros if paid within three days.

Electric and hybrid cars will be exempted from the ban as well as any vehicle carrying three people or more.

It is the first time since 1997 that the French authorities have resorted to such a drastic measure.

The government made the announcement on Saturday after pollution particulates in the air exceeded safe levels for five straight days in Paris and its environs.

One enterprising website did not waste any time cashing in on the restrictions. Lending site e-loue.com encouraged Parisians with odd-number plates to rent them to neighbours who could not drive on Monday.

Ban is 'hasty, ineffective' 

The issue has become something of a political football, with less than a week to go before key municipal elections.

The opposition UMP candidate for Paris mayor, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, called the measure a "fig leaf".

Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said he understood the "difficulties, the irritation and even anger" over the move, adding: "But we just had to take this decision."

Martin said similar measures in 1997 "had yielded results," adding that he hoped that the number of vehicles on the roads would be "significantly lower" on Monday, without giving a figure.

The measure is also expensive, with free public transport costing the RATP - the state-owned Paris train, subway, tram and bus operator - €2.5 million a day, according to RATP head Pierre Mongin.

(To see what the pollution looks like check out this video below)

France's Automobile Club Association (ACA), which counts some 760,000 members, denounced the move as "hasty, ineffective" and "bound to lead to chaos".

"This measure had no effect in any country where it was introduced," said ACA head Didier Bollecker.

"Drivers are being targeted even though heating is more polluting, but no one is asking for heating to be used on alternate days."

By Saturday the number of pollution particulates in the air had fallen slightly after hitting a high of 180 micrograms per cubic metre - well over double the safe limit - on Friday.

So-called PM10 particulates are created by vehicles, heating and heavy industry, with the safe limit set at 80 per cubic metre.

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

The pollution particulates in the air can cause asthma attacks as well as respiratory and heart problems.

The World Health Organization has said finer particulates - known as PM2.5 - are cancer-causing.

For more news from France, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Police evacuate France's oldest shanty town
Roma community members walk with their belongings after the forced evacuation of their camp on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Police evacuate France's oldest shanty town

6 hours ago

A 300-strong Roma population was evicted from a shanty town in the northern suburbs of Paris on Thursday, despite a strong call for the camp to remain.

French coach drivers to get forced breath tests
People waiting at the Gallieni international bus station and coach terminal in Bagnolet, east of Paris. Photo: Hugo Mathy/AFP

French coach drivers to get forced breath tests

7 hours ago

Coach drivers in France will be forced to have their blood-alcohol level tested via a breathalyzer before driving as part of a move to increase safety on the country’s growing coach industry.

France's Total sells North Sea gas assets
Tank trucks at French oil giant Total's La Mede refinery in Chateauneuf-les-Martigues. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

France's Total sells North Sea gas assets

8 hours ago

French oil giant Total announced on Thursday it had agreed to sell a North Sea gas terminal and two pipelines in a deal worth over $900 million in a move to help offset falling oil prices.

French police clear train after 'armed men joke'
The TGV train was evacuated in Nimes, southern France. File photo: AFP

French police clear train after 'armed men joke'

9 hours ago

In what might be the least funny "joke" of the year, a teenage girl sent her mother a text claiming there were two armed men aboard her train in southern France. Police weren't laughing.

Gunman at French camp shootout was drunk
Members of the gendarmes forensic unit set up a workspace on a road near a traveller camp. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Gunman at French camp shootout was drunk

13 hours ago

UPDATED: Investigators have revealed that a drunken man was behind the fatal shooting of four people at a traveller camp in northern France on Tuesday.

Journo 'tests' French rail security with fake gun
A Securail railway security agent stands on the platform at the Zuid-Midi railway station in Brussels. Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga/AFP

Journo 'tests' French rail security with fake gun

11 hours ago

A Belgian journalist has managed to travel on a French train with a fake machine gun just days after a terror attack was foiled on a Paris-bound train.

11-year-old boy survives six-storey fall in Paris

11-year-old boy survives six-storey fall in Paris

13 hours ago

Residents of a southern Paris apartment block have been left in shock after a young fell from the sixth floor of the building.

French woman wins grant for 'gadget allergy'
The woman claims to suffer an allergy to electromagnetic radiation from gadgets such as cellphones. Photo: gail/Flickr

French woman wins grant for 'gadget allergy'

1 day ago

A French court has awarded a disability grant to a woman claiming to suffer from a debilitating allergy to electromagnetic radiation from everyday gadgets such as cellphones.

The Local List
The eight wackiest bars you can find in Paris
Paris has its fair share of crazy cocktail bars. Photo: Dana Albers/Flickr

The eight wackiest bars you can find in Paris

1 day ago

Paris has its fair share of outlandish bars. From Mexican wrestling to Siberian temperatures, there's something for all tastes.

French tourist attacked by brown bear in Russia
The woman was attacked in the face and legs by the bear. File photo: Scott Lowe/Flickr

French tourist attacked by brown bear in Russia

1 day ago

A French tourist has been left with serious injuries after she was attacked by a bear in eastern Russia.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Feminist stunt sees French road signs changed for the day
National
Two men jailed after 'Charlie Hebdo 2' scare
National
French minister calls for tougher train security after foiled attack
National
President Hollande condemns arson attack on mosque
TIMELINE: What exactly happened on the Paris-bound "terror train"?
Travel
Could coaches overtake trains when it comes to travelling in France?
Train gunman: Islamic extremist or homeless misfit?
Meet the five heroes who foiled the French train attack
National
France set for 'tourism record' of 85 million visitors in 2015
National
Paris students are helping police to warn Asian visitors about crime
Naked couple found dead beside French fortress
Europe's biggest science museum burns in Paris
Robber found half-naked and asleep in French beauty salon
National
Here are eight tips for blending in with the French while at the beach
Humans of Paris: We meet the man changing our perception of Parisians
National
France reveals new plans for Sunday and late-night shopping
Read about this revolutionary kidney op in a Toulouse hospital
National
Panic after four dogs 'poisoned' after walks in Paris park
France hit by huge summer spike in abandoned pets
National
France boils in second hottest summer ever
Technology
Meet Max - the first person in France to receive a 3D-printed hand
Politics
French minister admits to 'Obama engagement' tweeting mishap
Features
From giant bubbles to treehouses - here are the craziest hotels in France
National
How would you like to spend a night in the Palace of Versailles?
French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years
Features
We talk to Calais residents about their migrant crisis
National
Cow spared after fleeing from abattoir in France
FIVE reasons why everyone should visit Calais... yes Calais
Travel
France for adrenaline junkies: Ten crazy things to do
VIDEO: Slingshot elastic breaks on ride at French theme park
This plant might spell the end of the Asian hornet invasion
Who says the French don't like speaking English
National
It may be trickier to find a baguette in Paris this August
Killers of French student were 'inspired by Breaking Bad'
Ten must-see French gems you probably never thought of visiting
Is it time for France to force Britain to move border back across Channel?
Is romance in France just a "heterosexual concept"?
Can YOU pronounce these ten French town names?
Dog buried alive sparks French social media fury
New plan to get shy French chatting on trains
'Massacre' of black cats shocks Marseille locals
Education
Rampaging kids trash French kindergarten
French bullfighting president mauled by rampaging bull
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se