The air pollution in the Spanish capital of Madrid is so bad at the moment that city hall has ordered half the private cars in the area off the road. Between 6:30 am and 9:00 pm, vehicles with even-numbered license plates will be allowed to drive on even-numbered days, and those with odd-numbered plates on odd-numbered days. While the ban is intended to be temporary, it’s unclear exactly when the smog will lift or how long it will last.
For those unlucky enough to lose use of their car for the day, there are ways around the ban. Mopeds, hybrid cars, buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles are exempt from the ban. People with disabilities can continue to use their vehicles, as can people carpooling with three or more people.
This is the first time such a ban has been carried out in Spain. It’s part of a new set of anti-pollution measures crafted by leftist groups since 2015, the third highest level out of four. The measure was activated when levels of dangerous nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere hit more than 200 micrograms per cubic meter in at least two measuring stations for two days in a row.
While this is a first for Spain, it’s not a new concept. Earlier this year in Delhi, India, the same even/odd driving system was tested for two full weeks in an attempt to moderate air pollution. And in 2015, both Milan and Rome banned all private cars from the road for three days to clear up smog. Germany, for its part, has banned certain highly polluting cars from its city centers, as has Mexico City.