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DRIVING

Driving in France: How the Crit’Air vehicle sticker system works

Towns and cities across France have already imposed driving restrictions on vehicles using the Crit'Air sticker system, and scheme is set for a major expansion. Here's how it works.

Driving in France: How the Crit'Air vehicle sticker system works
A Crit'Air sticker must be displayed in the vehicle windscreen in low-emission zones of France. Photo by JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP

The Crit’Air system was introduced in 2017 and assigns a number to each vehicle based on how much they pollute from 0 (electric vehicles) to 5 (older diesel vehicles).

All vehicles that are being driven in the towns and cities where the scheme applies need a Crit’Air sticker – not just French registered ones.

It is already in place in 11 towns and cities and will be expanded to 43 by the end of 2025.

Crit’Air stickers 0-5 – these must be displayed in the windscreen if you are driving in a low-emission zone. Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

So do I need a sticker?

It depends on where you are going. The cities where Crit’Air stickers are now obligatory are Paris, Grenoble, Lille, Bordeaux, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse, and Marseille so you will definitely need one if you are going there. 

However an increasing number of places are taking the opportunity to enforce circulation differenciée – which means they can impose restrictions in case of high pollution levels – most commonly in the summer. 

The map below shows these areas, but the full list is;

  • ZPA d’Angers
  • ZPA d’Annecy 
  • ZPA d’Auch 
  • ZPA de Chambery 
  • ZPA de Clermont-Ferrand 
  • ZPA de Dijon
  • ZPA de La Roche-sur-Yon
  • ZPA de Montpellier 
  • ZPA de Niort 
  • ZPA d’Orléans
  • ZPA de Pau
  • ZPA de Poitiers
  • ZPA de Valence
  • ZPA de Chartres
  • ZPA de Guéret
  • ZPA de la Vallée de l’Arve

A full list of France’s environmental zones.

There are also plans to expand the zones to cover 43 areas by 2025, although a full list of the planned extension zones is not currently available.

So what does the sticker actually mean?

At present local authorities can impose their own rules – some places have banned Crit’Air 4 and 5 vehicles from city centres altogether, some allow them in only at weekends or in the evening, while some impose restrictions only if pollution levels spike.

If restrictions are in place you will see signs like this explaining which sticker numbers are banned;

A sign on the Paris on the Peripherique ring road explains that vehicles bearing Crit’Air stickers of rank 3, 4, 5 and unclassified vehicles are banned. Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

You might also see it in this format;

The sign says that cars and lorries are banned – except for those that have Crit’Air stickers 0, 1, 2 or 3. In other words, level 4 and 5 are banned.

The government has brought in a target to make the restrictions more uniform;

From January 1st, 2023, Crit’Air 5 vehicles (diesel vehicles produced before 2001) will be affected by the ban. This will be followed on January 1st, 2024 by Crit’Air 4 (diesel before 2006) and on January 1st 2025 by Crit’Air 3 (diesel before 2011 and petrol/gasoline before 2006).

How do the stickers work?

You need to order the sticker in advance of your trip and display it in the windscreen whenever you are driving in a low-emissions zone.

The sticker has your registration number on it, so you cannot swap them between vehicles and if you get a new car you will have to get a new sticker.

The sticker corresponds with how polluting your vehicle is. Electric and hybrid cars get a special green sticker with a zero, petrol or diesel vehicles get a number from 1 to 5. The level is automatically assigned based on the age of your car and the registration details you give, which allows the system to assign you a number based on the manufacturer’s specifications.

How do I get one?

Surprisingly for a French bureaucratic task, the process is pretty simple.

Head to the government site here and fill out the form (available in English). You will need your vehicle registration documents to hand as you need your vehicle identification number as well as registration number and you also need to upload an image of your vehicle registration documents.

Once the form is completed the sticker will be sent to you in the post. It usually takes a week but at peak times it can be longer. The total price, including postage, is €3.70 if you’re in France or €4.51 if not.

Once you have the sticker you keep it for as long as you keep the car.

What are the penalties?

You can be fined both for driving in a low-emission zone without the sticker and for entering a zone where your vehicle is forbidden.

At present the fine is €68 and is rather patchily enforced since it depends on local police making traffic stops.

However there are plans to bring in a more technological enforcement with cameras (full details are still to be revealed) by 2024 and to make Crit’Air violations a class 4 traffic offence, which has a maximum penalty of a €750 fine. 

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For members

STRIKES

France’s pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

France's pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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