How do cities around the world react when pollution gets particularly bad?

·2-min read
Paris has made public transport free in the past when pollution levels are especially high (AFP via Getty Images)
Paris has made public transport free in the past when pollution levels are especially high (AFP via Getty Images)

Londoners were told to avoid outdoor strenous physical activity when faced with the prospect of very high pollution levels on Friday.

The advice later changed to only those at-risk, such as people with heart and lung conditions, when the level was downgraded.

The messaging triggered a backlash from some, who wanted more concrete action to reduce pollution rather than suggestions on how to change behaviour to stay safe.

One cycling group suggested the public health advice to avoid physical exertion could even convince people to opt for polluting car journeys instead.

However, London’s walking and cycling commissioner urged people to ditch cars and take a cleaner mode of transport if possible as the capital faced “dangerously high” pollution levels.

Other cities have taken action to force residents to change behaviour in the past when hit by particularly bad pollution levels.

Paris has used a strategy where half of its cars are banned from coming into the city on a certain day.

In 2014, the city only allowed odd numbered cars in its centre on one day, which was due to switch to only even numbered on the next - but this was scrapped due to the first day’s success in reducing pollution.

The same happened in 2016, when Paris said it was facing the worst air pollution in a decade. Public transport was also made temporarily free in a bid to encourage people to ditch cars.

In 2015 in Italy, smog levels in Rome and Milan exceeded healthy levels for more than 30 days in a row, prompting both cities to take emergency action for three days.

Like Paris, the Italian capital allowed odd and even cars into the city on different days. Meanwhile Milan stopped all vehicles from entering between 10am and 4pm.

Two years later, Milan and Turin, northern Italian cities, also temporarily banned cars with certain emission standards after air pollution levels exceeded safe limits.

Delhi has also implemented the “odd-even” rule to allowing cars in the city in response to toxic smog in the Indian capital.

Last year, it went into a pollution-induced lockdown, with schools shut and residents told to work from home as a blanket of thick smog enveloped the city.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting