France air pollution traffic restrictions

European heatwave means air pollution driving bans in force across France

France air pollution traffic restrictions

With mainland Europe still gripped by a seemingly never-ending heatwave, certain areas of France have enacted anti-pollution restrictions against traffic.

The Crit’air vignette system was introduced to allow local authorities to restrict traffic to all but the cleanest of cars when air pollution spikes. With some 31 environmental zones across France, almost all major towns and cities are included.

This week Paris, Strasbourg, and Lyon have used the Crit’air restrictions to ban the most polluting of cars from town centres. High levels of ozone have been cited as the cause, with things worsened by the continuing hot weather.

Paris has already used the Crit’air restrictions 12 times since the beginning of July. The French capital is encouraging car sharing, and launched special public transport offers to cut down on car usage.

Car drivers using the low emissions zones must display a vignette, or risk a fine of €68 (£61) if caught without one. Fines can also be levied for ignoring emergency pollution restrictions.

A small price to pay

Given how little the vignettes cost, it may be wise to spend the €3.11 (£2.70) plus postage if you are planning on heading to any of the areas with low emissions zones in place.

The levels of vignette sticker correspond to the emissions level of the particular car, with those more than 21 years old unable to apply for the vignette – effectively banning them from all controlled areas.

The EU has a useful specific website, including a route planner, letting drivers see if they will pass through an emissions zone on their journey across all of Europe.

Vignette stickers can be bought from the official French environment ministry website. Beware of unofficial websites reported to be charging substantially more for the same service. Orders should be processed within 24 hours, with tracked delivery taking around 10 days.

Motorbike riders and commercial vehicle drivers are also covered by the rules, with HGVs liable for bigger fines of up to €135 (£120) for non-compliance.