Pedestrians took to the Champs Elysées last September 27, as Paris went car-free for the day. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Banning vehicles from parts of the city—including the Champs Elysées—is part of an ongoing effort to curb pollution.

Beginning May 8, some Sundays in Paris will be a little less smoggy.

The French city will ban car traffic along the Champs Elysées and nine other routes on the first Sunday of each month, adding to the 13 areas already announced as part of the “Paris Breathes” campaign, The Independent reports. (Mayor Anne Hidalgo moved the launch to May 8 from May 1 to avoid conflict with a public holiday.) Another four zones will be pedestrian-only on Sundays, but just during the summer.

Since taking office in 2014, Hidalgo has made improving Paris’ air quality one of her top priorities. And her efforts have proven successful: Last September, Paris’ “day without cars” brought levels of smog-causing nitrogen dioxide down by 40 percent in parts of the city, The Guardian reports. On the Champs Elysées, the city’s air pollution tracker Airparif measured a one-third reduction in nitrogen dioxide that day.

After the success of “Journee Sans Voiture,” Hildago tweeted: “We might envisage days without cars more often … perhaps even once a month.” The forthcoming car-free Sundays are the result of that thought.

The infamous Parisian smog that has inspired Hidalgo and policymakers to action. (REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)

Speaking to The Independent, Oliver Hayes, a Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said that while Paris, with its vehicle restrictions and plans to phase out diesel buses, is clearly attempting to address its growing air-quality problem, “we’re going to need much more than one day to prevent the thousands of early deaths caused each year by air pollution.” The World Health Organization estimates that, in France, those deaths number around 42,000.

Hayes’ sentiments echo the response the expansion of Mexico City’s “Hoy No Circula” system, which bans cars from the road one day per week. CityLab Latino reports that scientists have criticized the proposal, calling it “an immediate, temporary measure” with no long-term effect.

As my colleague Tanvi Misra reported, Dehli’s limit on car use earlier this year didn’t result in improved air quality, either. That should serve as a reminder that pollution is not the fault of cars alone; industrial emissions and power plants account for the bulk of the Indian city’s air-quality problems. The same holds true for Paris: CityLab previously reported that the region’s industries cause the most particle emissions at 30 percent of the total.

However, the impetus behind “Paris Breathes” cannot be dismissed. While one day per month will not, in and of itself, reduce air pollution to the necessary extent, it goes a long way toward encouraging a culture shift. Speaking to The Guardian after the September 27th car ban in Paris, Christophe Najdovski, the deputy mayor in charge of transport, said: “We have to change people’s attitudes and behavior. The fact is you don’t need a car to get around in Paris and there is no reason to use one most of the time. You can take public transport, bicycles, and even walk.” The car ban, he said, was effectively a symbolic event, one that nevertheless showed, as the forthcoming restrictions will, that it’s possible for people to “move about the city differently.”

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A person hands cash to a vendor.
    Life

    In Las Vegas, Kickbacks Sweeten the Deal for Uber and Lyft Drivers

    For decades, Vegas night clubs have paid taxi drivers to bring in new customers. Now ride-sharing drivers find that a good hustle can pay off.

  2. A photo of President Donald Trump showing off U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes in March 2018.
    Perspective

    This Isn't a Border Wall: It's a Monument to White Supremacy

    Like Confederate monuments, President Trump’s vision of a massive wall along the Mexican border is about propaganda and racial oppression, not national security.

  3. Two men plant a young tree in a lot in Detroit.
    Environment

    Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting

    Detroiters were refusing city-sponsored “free trees.” A researcher found out the problem: She was the first person to ask them if they wanted them.

  4. Equity

    Hope You Aren't Counting on Getting a Tax Refund This Winter

    Millions of low-income households rely on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help them get through the winter. Too bad most IRS workers are furloughed.

  5. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.