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Polluted Paris forces thousands of cars off the road

Update: March, 17/2014 - 12:03

PARIS – Thousands of cars will be banned from Parisian roads on Monday as the city tries to curb dangerous pollution levels by introducing alternate driving days for the first time in nearly two decades.

The radical move will see around 700 police officers deployed to man 60 checkpoints around the French capital to ensure that only cars with number plates ending in odd numbers are out on the streets.

Parking will be free on Monday for vehicles with even number plates, the Paris city hall said, calling on residents to consult carpooling or car-sharing sites to work out their travel plans.

The restrictions will come into force across Paris and 22 surrounding areas from 5:30 am (0430 GMT).

They will be reviewed on a daily basis, with odd numbers potentially banned on Tuesday if an extension is deemed necessary.

Electric and hybrid cars will be exempted from the ban as well as any vehicle carrying three people or more.

It is the first time since 1997 that the French authorities have resorted to such a drastic measure.

One enterprising website did not waste any time cashing in on the restrictions. Lending site e-loue.com encouraged Parisians with odd-number plates to rent them to neighbours who could not drive on Monday.

The government made the announcement on Saturday after pollution particulates in the air exceeded safe levels for five straight days in Paris and its environs.

All public transport was made free over the weekend to persuade residents to leave their cars at home. It will remain free as long as the alternate driving days remain in force.AFP

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