City of Lights dimmed: Paris bans 50% traffic due to heavy smog

Reuters / Philippe Wojazer
France is introducing emergency traffic restrictions in Paris due to massive smog that has recently gripped the famous City of Lights, almost obscuring the landmark Eiffel Tower. Half the capital’s drivers will be banned from the streets on Monday.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has repeatedly asked the authorities to introduce measures to battle the choking pollution, proposed the temporary ban.

"I am delighted the state has agreed to put in place a partial driving ban on Monday, which I have been requesting for several days," Hidalgo wrote on Saturday on Twitter.

READ MORE: Smog alert: France introduces alternate driving days in Paris for 1st time since 1997

Only those vehicles with number plates ending in an odd number will be allowed on the streets. However, the ban doesn’t affect taxis, electric cars and ambulances.

Public transport will be free on Monday all over Paris and its satellite towns.

Air quality experts predicted dangerous particulates could potentially jump over the allowed maximum over the weekend. Pollution alerts in France are issued when these PM10 particles reach 80 micrograms per cubic meter.

These tiny particles are also some of the most dangerous to public health and can cause asthma, allergies and other respiratory ailments.

A map of air quality in Paris and other French towns shows that numerous locations are smog-bound.

On Friday, Plumelabs.com, a website that monitors 60 cities, indicated Paris briefly topped their list for poor air quality. According to the website, Paris had an AQI (Air quality index) level of 136, higher than the world’s most notoriously smoggy cities, such as Beijing and Delhi.

In the long term, Paris is planning to ban all polluting cars and lorries from the streets, and extend public transport.

“We need long-term solutions including extra charges on heavy goods vehicles…,”

Fabrice Michel, a spokesman for the French Association of Transport Users (FNAUT), told FRANCE 24 on Friday.

“Paris also needs a congestion charge inside the city,” he added. “This would reduce circulation and raise revenue. But all our politicians seem to do is wait for the rain and when it doesn’t come, they blame the weather for their failings.”

READ MORE: ‘As polluted as Beijing’: Paris makes public transport free amid smog crisis

This is not the first time Paris has suffered from massive air pollution. Last March, Paris and the whole of France were under pollution alerts of various scales. The government was forced to introduce alternate driving days in the French capital.

Air pollution doesn’t just affect France. UK authorities issued a health advisory due to smog on Thursday.

“Winds bringing in pollution from the continent, combined with locally generated pollution and still weather conditions has [sic] led to some high pollution measurements across the UK,” said a spokeswoman from Defra’s environment department.