In an effort to curb air pollution in the city, Parisian authorities have announced that from from 5.30am today a scheme of alternating driving days, based on odd and even number plates, will come into effect for cars, HGVs and motorcycles. Additionally, for as long as the scheme is running, the fares for using the public transit network will be reduced to zero, instead being paid out of general taxation funds.

France announces temporary alternating ban on driving in Paris city centre

The aim of the scheme seems to be to lower air pollution, but as far as I can tell the list of exceptions they had to tack on in order to prevent the city from shutting down economically means that the only people not driving will be half of the daily commuters. The heavy goods delivery vehicles (diesels), industrial lorries (diesels), manufacturing plants and oil-burning heating systems are all going to be running as normal, as well as emergency services (mostly diesels) have all been given special exemption and will still be on the roads. Also, driving with more than three people in your car allows you an exemption also.

The official list of exemptions, translated from the French .gov website:

Are not affected by restrictive measures:

  • non-polluting light vehicles, electric vehicles, vehicles running on natural gas vehicle (NGV) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and hybrid vehicles;
  • light commercial vehicles (vans);
  • vehicles in which took up at least three people, and users are encouraged to carpool;
  • vehicles whose movement is justified by the necessity of performing public service tasks (police, police, fire, EMS, SMUR, postal vehicles, money transport, garbage collection and ...);
  • vehicles in charge of supplying the population (vehicles supply markets, grocery stores, cafes and restaurants, deliveries of perishables, refrigerated vehicles, trucks ...);
  • vehicles whose use is strictly necessary for the performance of professional and easily identifiable (transport activity, taxis, press vehicles, coaches, school buses, driving school vehicles, movers, recovery vehicles, vehicles transporting materials for projects ...).
  • Note that vehicles Great War Invalids (GIG) and Great Civil Invalides (GIC) or ducts or transporting handicapped or disabled persons enjoy the same exemption.

So the only vehicles not on the road will be commuter motorcycles (entirely petrol, all catalysed after 2003-ish) and commuter cars (mix of about 50/50 petrol and diesel.) The particulates that they're trying to cut down on are almost soley produced by diesel vehicles, so as far as I can tell this is going to have no real effect on the pollution levels. Additionally, the fine for breaking the rules is less than $30 (£18/€22)

If this scheme lasts longer than a week, I'm fairly certain we'll see the same pattern of activity as every other city that's tried this- people buy cheap, crappy old cars with an alternate number plate to their daily driver, and use that on the other day instead.

Of course, the real solution to this problem would be to develop a hybrid diesel-electric or even pure EV heavy goods vehicle, and upgrade the houses still using antiquated oil-burning heating systems in the city centre, but since city authorities are in the habit of demanding results RIGHT NOW, I guess regulations like this are going to become more and more common in large cities.