Banned from driving in the city from Thursday, they would rather “not go there anymore” or “pay a fine” than change cars

Marseille motorists whose car has a Crit’Air 5 sticker will have to find a solution from this Thursday to avoid the low-emissions zone (ZFE) circumscribed to the hypercentre. Like many French cities, Marseille is gradually implementing this measure, which aims to improve air quality by banning less recent vehicles.

But not necessarily the least polluting, according to some of our readers who responded to our request for testimonials to find out what they thought of the implementation of certain traffic restrictions from September 1st in Toulouse, Lyon or even Rouen. “It would be nice if the articles stopped repeating that Crit’Air 3, 4 or 5 vehicles are the most polluting. The Crit’Air sticker number has nothing to do with pollution, it’s just linked to the year of the vehicle. Large SUVs and recent 4x4s pollute more than some old small cars, but as they are recent, they have the right to drive in the city”, recalls Philippe.

“Scrap cars in good condition”

Maurice owns a car that left the factory in 2008 and was rated Crit’Air 3. He’s far from crazy about driving, he’s even more of a fan of smooth ways, preferring to walk and ride his bike. As a result, he uses very little his 14-year-old vehicle, which has only 126,000 km on the odometer, and regularly maintains it. “At a time when we are finally trying to give a second life, or even more, to our everyday objects, it is difficult to understand and accept that we are going to have to dismantle a vehicle in such good condition! And replace it for what? A partially or fully electric vehicle when the State announces a lack of electricity and asks us to save money”, laments the latter. And many of them don’t want to trade their old car in good condition for a newer one, which is “ecological nonsense” for them.

Like it or not, some are forced to switch machines if they want to keep working. This is the case for many artisans. Like Jean-Marc’s brother-in-law, who has just taken over his father’s electricity company in the suburbs of Toulouse, he decided to invest in an authorized vehicle. “He bought an electric van several months ago but it still won’t be delivered until March 2023 at best due to multiple shortages. But as of today he can no longer enter the ring road and the city center because his father’s old van is the Crit’Air 4”, says Jean-Marc indignantly. As for the waitress sister-in-law, she wonders how she will fare next year, when her Crit’Air 4 car is banned and she will have to return home in the middle of the night, unable to find common transportation.

Daniel is also a craftsman in the Pink City and, even though his vehicle is the Crit’Air, he sympathizes with those who cannot change vehicles. “I’m sure there will be exemptions for city hall vehicles, but the artisan will be the cash cow,” he complains. Jérôme has been building “houses that haven’t needed heating for fifteen years” and took a radical decision: he no longer goes to the city.

Boycott and Free Riders

So does Eric, who lives in the suburbs of Marseille. “I don’t live in the city, but I often went there for sightseeing, restaurants, shopping, exhibitions. I decided it would end. Restaurants and tours, I can do them where I will be accepted, exhibitions, there are in other places, and purchases that I will do in other places or on the Internet. This city doesn’t want me and well, I don’t want to give it anything either, it’s simple and clear”, he counters. Pascale, another southerner, can’t help but face this new ban from Marseille, where “in port, cruise ships pollute more than traffic.”

But not everyone can make this decision or decide to do so. Jean-Charles, a retiree who lives 120 km from Lyon, has no choice. He has to go from time to time to the center of the Gaul capital to take care of his 96-year-old father. “And take my 20-year-old son, who has multiple disabilities, there. How should I do? More than VSL and ambulance trips, it’s Social Security that will be happy,” he writes, wondering if he could qualify for an exemption.

Belio, who commented on our request for testimony, also considers it “shameful”, especially for the inhabitants of Eure, “a medical desert”. “They will no longer be able to go to Rouen for their medical examinations, specialist consultations, operations etc. There is no Rouen-Evreux public transport to compensate, there is no parking at the Rouen metro terminals,” he says, thinking of the “small pensioner” who, with his meager pension, is unable to switch to the electric car.

Thibault, a resident of Puteaux, in the Hauts-de-Seine, also did his calculations. A fan of public transport and sensitive to ecological issues, he decided to keep his old Renault Clio from 1995, “without Crit’Air”, for limited travel. “I’ll pay some fines if I have to, fines of 60 euros to make a car profitable for 20,000 euros, that’s 333 fines! If I take just once a month, 333 fines at the maximum rate of one per month, that lasts for over 27 years! Thus, I validate my absurd reasoning, as an ZFE that is equally absurd”, he concludes, with a touch of derision.

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