Paris has resorted to drastic measures to curb sky-high pollution by banning all cars with even number plates for the first time in nearly two decades.
In a move that infuriated motorist organisations, around 700 police officers were deployed to 60 checkpoints around the French capital to ensure only cars with plates where numbers end with an odd digit were out on the streets.
Public transport has been free since Friday to persuade Parisians to leave their cars at home, and at rush hour on Monday morning, authorities noted there were half the usual number of traffic jams as drivers grudgingly conformed to the ruling.
Some, though, appeared unaware of the restrictions that came into force across Paris and 22 surrounding areas from 5:30am – or chose to ignore them.
“You don’t have the right to drive with your number plate,” a man on a scooter remarked to another while stopped at a red light.
“Oh really? I didn’t know,” the second driver replied before speeding off.
The restrictions will be reviewed on a daily basis, with odd numbers potentially banned on Tuesday if deemed necessary – a decision due to be made later in the day.
The government decided to implement the ban on Saturday after pollution particulates in the air exceeded safe levels for the fifth straight day in Paris and neighbouring areas, enveloping the Eiffel Tower in a murky haze.
On Monday, Airparif, an official monitor for air quality in Paris and neighbouring areas, said pollution levels had since fallen.
“There are encouraging signs that it is decreasing,” said Anne Kauffman, Airparif’s number two.
Those who chose to defy the ban risked a fine of 22 euros ($A34.26) if paid immediately, or 35 euros if paid within three days.
By midday Monday, Paris police said they had doled out nearly 4,000 fines to drivers not respecting the restriction.
Electric and hybrid cars, as well as any vehicle carrying three people or more, are exempted from the ban – the first since 1997.
France’s Automobile Club Association (ACA), which counts some 760,000 members, denounced the move as “hasty, ineffective”.