Test driving the car ban


Paris’ car ban solution to pollution problem is something we should all try

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 24, 2014

Many metropolitan cities in the world are suffering from the smog of pollution. It’s just something that happens when millions of people start living together. While some places continue to digest the pollutant, others are working hard on the solution. On March 17, Paris implemented the car ban, where only vehicles with a licence plate ending in an odd number were allowed to drive on the roads—the alternative was a fine.

Roughly 4,000 drivers were fined on the first day of the ban, but many drivers played along with the one-day ban—the government chose not to continue with the second day of the ban. French researchers found significant improvement in the air quality. Although I understand the inconvenience it must have caused for the commuting public, I’m also a bit disappointed that it only lasted a day.

We have recognized the harm of pollution for many years now. Greenhouse effect, global warming, and melting ice caps are all warnings harkened by Al Gore and his environmentalist buddies. The evidence is clearly visible, but still we choose to anticipate the consequence before we engage in a solution.

Why should we wait until there is a smog problem before we execute a car ban? Can we not change this human zeitgeist?

Let’s look closer to home. Beautiful British Columbia. We wouldn’t dare compare ourselves to larger cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City, Beijing, and Paris, right? But aren’t we cruising in the same direction? Didn’t we just expand our highways in anticipation of the growth both in population and in drivers? I’m sorry, but if you think our emerald forest, ivory mountains, and sapphire ocean are going to protect us from pollution, you’re wrong. Those are the things we’ll lose should smog happen here, in beautiful British Columbia.

Bike lanes do a little, a new transit line does a little, but what we need is something like the car ban in Paris: something that keeps us from becoming complacent. As we grow as a city, we must also adjust our lifestyle to accommodate traffic congestions—just because populations double, doesn’t mean traffic needs to double as well.

This new way of living may require us to schedule car pools and strategize our way to and from work. It may sound like a hassle to remember when you can and cannot drive. Moreover, this type of initiative will require that law enforcement ensures people are following the new rule. I understand that may lead to a lot of negative reaction, after all, the road already leaves us so vulnerable and traffic police already have so much to look out for. But one day, shit might just hit the fan, and we’ll be asking ourselves what we could have done—well, this is what we could have done: stop being little whiners.

The car ban may seem like a gimmick to many, but it should be something we all consider, not just for metropolitan cities, but also for soon-to-be metropolitan cities, like our own.

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