While major cities around the world are pondering how they can make their municipalities more environmentally friendly, Paris has already taken one step in that direction. Since Oct. 7th, cars are not allowed to operate in most parts of the city, once a month.
The initiative, with its mayor Anne Hidalgo leading the charge, will take place on the first Sunday of each month to decrease auto emissions, to promote and favor more public transportation usage, and ensure that public areas are being used equitably.
It's all part of the 'Paris Respire' (Paris Breathes) campaign, which had already taken effect in a few areas around the French capital. This time, however, it will affect popular destinations and major traffic arteries. In the center of the city, only pedestrians and citizens using bikes, rollerblades, and scooters will be allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Service vehicles like delivery trucks and public transport are permitted only at specific access routes and stops, and must not go faster than 12 miles per hour. However, maintenance workers, repair crew, Parisians going to a religious event, and emergency personnel will be allowed to use their motor vehicles.
'Paris Breathes' is the latest initiative by the city government to clean up the municipality. Previous endeavors that launched in 2003 have steadily brought down air pollution levels, although high temperatures have resulted in the index increasing sharply since 2016.
Despite all these initiatives, Paris remains one of the most polluted cities in the world. A study released by the World Health Association in 2016 determined that air pollution is annually responsible for 48,000 deaths in France, roughly 9% of national fatalities. It also determined that a 30-year-old person living in a municipality of at least 100,000 could have a life expectancy reduced by 15 months.
The study noted that if pollution areas were reduced to match the levels in the five least polluted areas of France, around 34,000 lives could be saved each year and people could expect an extra nine months in life expectancy. However, if pollution levels were lowered to levels enjoyed by the cleanest areas in France, fatalities would drop to 14,000, while others would gain up to nine months of life expectancy.