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Paris bans all cars made before 1997 to reduce pollution

As part of an effort to appease old-car owners, Paris residents who give up their car will be granted up to 400 euros towards a new bicycle, or a yearlong public transport pass.
Imagen del Peugeot 205 convertible vía Wikimedia Commons

Anyone driving an older car or an old motorcycle will no longer be welcome in the streets of the French capital on weekdays.

The ban, which aims to reduce air pollution in the City of Light, came into effect Friday and makes Paris the first city in the country to officially establish a "limited traffic area."

From now on, personal-use vehicles built before January 1, 1997 and utility vehicles built before October 1, 1997 will have to be off the roads from 8:00am to 8:00pm, Monday to Friday. Two-wheeled motorized vehicles built before June 1, 1999 are also included in the ban.


The ban does not apply to police and customs vehicles, emergency vehicles, and vehicles that transport cash. Classic cars and vehicles transporting goods to the city's green markets will also be spared under the new rules.

The ban is part of the city's plan to curb air pollution in the French capital. Launched in July 2015, the plan kicked off with the banning of all buses and heavy goods vehicles built before October 1, 2001.

The plan is made possible by new energy transition legislation introduced in August 17, 2015, which allows French towns to restrict the traffic of certain vehicles to improve air quality.

According to French daily Le Monde, the ban will eventually extend to all heavy goods vehicles registered before October 2006 and to all personal use and utility diesel vehicles registered before January 2001. Further restrictions will be introduced in 2018.

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Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has said she intends to "eradicate" diesel vehicles and the more polluting of vehicles by 2020.

Motorists will have a three-month grace period to get used to the new ban, after which they will be fined 35 euros if caught breaking the rules.

For now, police will enforce the rules by stopping cars and checking registration documents. But as of July 1, 2017, all cars will be required to display a sticker indicating the vehicle's "cleanliness." The stickers will be available in green, purple, yellow, orange, dark red and grey — with green showing the "cleanest" car and grey for the worst offenders. The stickers, which cost 4.5 euros ($5) can already be purchased online.


The new traffic restrictions have already angered some motorists, and in May, the consumer group 40 millions d'automobilistes (40 Million Motorists) launched a class action suit against the city. The group is seeking compensation to make up for the depreciation triggered by the new measures.

As part of an effort to appease old-car owners, the city has unlocked funds to help residents use alternative modes of transport. Paris residents who give up their car will be granted up to 400 euros towards a new bicycle, or a yearlong public transport pass.

According to a June 21 report by France's public health agency, air pollution from fine particles in the country is so bad, it is responsible for 48,000 deaths a year in the country, making it the third leading cause of death in France.

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Researchers also determined that the life expectancy of a 30-year-old person is reduced by 15 months if that person lives in a crowded urban area.

On Friday, Le Monde unveiled the initial results of an impact study carried out by Airparif — the agency that monitors the air quality in Paris and the surrounding area. According to the report, the news restrictions could reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by five percent, and PM10 particles (particles with a diameter less than 10 microns) and PM2.5 particles (particles with a diameter less than 2.5 microns) by four percent.

But in an interview with French daily Le Parisien, Doctor Charlse Brahmy —a lung specialist and an expert in allergies at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital and the Nanterre hospital — remained skeptical about the outcome of the ban. "Introducing these kinds of local measures only in major cities will not be enough: pollution doesn't stop at the gates of the big cities," he said.

Another key measure of the energy transition bill will kick in next month when France bans plastic bags from supermarkets. In January 2017, the smaller bags provided in stores to separate produce will also be discontinued.

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Image by Spielvogel via Wikimedia commons