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Pollution Slows Paris Road Speed

August 24, 2001

PARIS (AP) _ Authorities in Paris ordered motorists to reduce their speed on Friday after pollution levels rose, worsened by summer heat and heavy traffic on the roads during holidays.

Speed limits were cut by 12 mph as temperatures reached 86 degrees and above in the Paris region. Paris’ normal speed limit is 31 mph on most roads.

The restrictions were imposed after tests by Airparif, which measures atmospheric pollution, showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide at monitoring points in Paris, Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis.

Also Friday, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe defended his plan to reserve 25 miles of car lanes for buses and bicycles only.

``It’s about the liberty of Parisians. Why should I continue to give one-fourth of the Parisian population 94 percent of the road?″ Delanoe said at a news conference.

The mayor was referring to figures from the Paris Transit Authority that show only a quarter of Parisians at rush hour use private vehicles.

Delanoe’s measures have angered car owners who say reserving the lanes for buses and bicycles will only make traffic worse in the congested capital.

But Philippe Martin, head of the bus department at the transit authority, said Delanoe’s proposal will allow buses to run more regularly and up to 20 percent faster.

``I think there will be a change in people’s attitudes when they find out it’s more efficient to take public transportation,″ he said.

The mayor’s actions are part of a larger plan to encourage Parisians to use public transportation. It follows a trial period this summer when Paris roads along the Seine River were closed to vehicles during the peak tourist season. The city plans to continue the practice next summer.

Last month, during a similar period of poor air quality, Paris residents were urged to use public transportation, share rides or walk to work.

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