Saharan dust caused particulate matter levels in Europe to skyrocket this week. In Switzerland, the speed limit on motorways was tightened. In France, the activation of the environmental zones was mostly too late. In some areas, they were dispensed with altogether despite the pollution.
The warm air from the south has brought more Sahara dust to Europe this week. This contributes enormously to the fine dust pollution. In addition, the pollen count began to rise. The pollution caused by the smallest particles in the air was therefore particularly high, so that the limit values were exceeded in many places.
Nevertheless, measures to reduce particulate matter were not taken everywhere. In France, where the Saharan dust was felt very strongly, even more temporary environmental zones could have been activated to reduce the additional pollution from traffic. The regions most affected were Alsace-Lorraine and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, where the Massif Central is located. In fact, there were advance warnings in many places. However, these did not lead to driving bans everywhere. In Grenoble, Chambéry and Annecy, there are now driving bans for vehicles with stickers 4 and worse, in Lyon even for stickers 3 and worse. In some regions only trucks are affected; in the Arve Valley they must have at least sticker 4, in Upper Savoie at least sticker 5. In other places, such as Nancy and Strasbourg, driving bans were waived and only speed limits introduced. Public transport is also free here. Elderly people and people with asthma were already advised to stay at home in many places.
In the meantime, the danger from a front coming from the north has diminished again. So today's driving bans are actually too late.
In Ticino, Switzerland, a temporary speed limit of 80km/h and an overtaking ban on motorways were also introduced.
In Germany, there were no measures against the increased fine dust pollution. Admittedly, the pollution here was lower than in more southern countries, but limit values were still exceeded. Admittedly, there are no temporary driving bans that can be activated in such cases. But a speed limit could have helped reduce the danger. After all, industry and traffic account for about 30% of fine dust pollution in this country.
On the one hand, the situation shows that it makes sense to make driving bans more flexible, so that decision-makers have the opportunity to better protect vulnerable people in cases of extreme pollution. But it also shows that it is not enough to introduce temporary environmental zones if politicians then fail to react quickly enough.
You can see all temporary driving bans in France and their status in our app. This way, you are always informed on a daily basis whether you are allowed to enter a temporary environmental zone with your vehicle.