Quality of air in the city of light has been so bad lately that Parisians have been able to enjoy free public transportation, and starting Monday, half of the cars will be banned from its streets.
The European environment Agency calls it the worst air pollution since 2007, and it affects three quarters of France. The level of PM10 particulates per cubic-meter has reached peaks of 180, more than double the safe limit. Most people blame cars, especially the high proportion of diesel cars, for this situation.
The French government reacted last Friday by making all public transportation free in the Paris region: train, bus and subway. Even the famous bicycle sharing network Velolib’ became free, as well as a one-hour rental at the electric car sharing service Autolib’.
Starting Monday, Parisians will discover a whole new world: only odd-numbered vehicles will be allowed on the roads, including motorcycles and scooters, and the next day it will be the turn for even-numbered vehicles. The region will be closed to trucks.
There are exceptions though: electric and hybrid vehicles will not be affected by this alternate driving plan, as well as cars with 3 or more occupants, taxis, and cars with foreign license plates.
This sounds like the beginning of what the future should be in cities: free public transportation, and only electric vehicles and bicycles. Of course we don’t know yet how long this policy will be in place, and as soon as the pollution levels come down, Paris will go back to “normal”. But things will never be the same, and our bet is that pressure will now grow exponentially for a cleaner and less car-centric Paris. Then it will really deserve its surname of “the city of light”…