After a major spike in air pollution earlier this week, Paris city mayor Anne Hidalgo asked authorities to prevent one in every two cars from taking to the capital's streets and make all public transport temporarily free until at least Monday in an effort to reduce pollution. With limited exceptions such as taxis, emergency vehicles, and electric cars, only personal vehicles with licenses that begin with odd numbers will be allowed on the city streets.
The World Health Organization recommends that PM10 (a measure of air pollution, particulate matter having smaller than a 10 micron diameter) not exceed 20 micrograms per cubic meter. On Friday, Airparif, a nonprofit enlisted by the federal government to monitor air pollution in the city, reported levels of PM10 as higher than 100 micrograms per cubic meter. Levels this high, not only decrease visibility but also bring long-term health implications like asthma and lung cancer.
This sort of vehicle restriction is not new. Paris has issued similar measures twice before. Most recently, on March 17th of last year, traffic decreased by nearly 20% and pollution levels dropped 6%. While these restrictions are no more than an emergency solution, Parisian officials are looking forward to the long-term as well. A congestion style charge to motorists, similar to one implemented in London, has been criticized sharply but there have been significant investments in “improving public transport and [banning] the most polluting cars [diesel cars made before 2001] starting in July,” according to Christophe Najdovski, spokesman for the Paris’s transport commissioner.