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Ceci n'est pas une autoroute: Paris bans pre-1997 cars in city center

It's only on the weekdays, and it sadly includes classic cars, but it could go a long way in reducing Paris' pollution problem.

Eiffel Tower, Pont des Invalides and Seine River bank in Paris at night seen from Pont Alexandre III.
Wieslawa Hoummada#150876, Getty Images

If there's one city that's attempted more than any other to figure out how to rid its city center of pollution, it's Paris. The French capital has looked into multiple solutions, most of which involve removing certain cars from the road on certain days, based on license plates and other factors. Starting this summer, it's going with a more heavy-handed approach.

Le Monde reports that, as of July 1, Paris will ban vehicles registered before 1997 from the city center on weekdays. Motorcycles registered before 2000 will also fall under this new rule. Eventually, Paris plans to have a system in place whereby no vehicle more than 10 years old will be on Paris' streets, whether it's weekdays or weekends.

In order to keep track of which vehicles are polluting the most, Parisian vehicles will fall under one of six different classifications, depending on their effect on the environment. The hope is that, one day, only the cleanest vehicles will be allowed to traverse the city. Le Monde points out that this graduated system is put in place to limit the pushback from residents and create a more measured adaption to the eventual end result.

Of course, considering Paris' plan puts hydrogen and electric cars in the premier classification, it's fairly clear that the city government only cares about tailpipe emissions and the effect on Paris' air quality. If it were using a "well-to-wheel" measurement, whereby emissions are measured in a way that includes manufacturing methods, the system would likely change radically.

Perhaps the saddest bit of news is that historic cars are not exempt from this ruling, meaning that the Citroën 2CV you're picturing in your head right now won't be rolling through downtown Paris any time soon. There's also the consideration of classism, given that citizens that cannot afford anything newer likely own many of Paris' pre-1997 cars. Suffice it to say, there's loads of nuance that isn't necessarily being addressed.

But something needs to happen, no matter what. Paris' air pollution is some of the worst in Europe, and while banning diesels has already been brought up, clearly it's not enough to keep the creeping smog from consuming what is otherwise a very nice (and historic, mind you) skyline.