Should smog masks be the next must-have accessory for city cyclists?

Could London follow Paris and ban cars?

Paris authorities are turning to temporary car bans to curtail dangerously high pollution levels in the French capital.

Last week pollution levels hit 180 micro grammes of PM10 particulates per cubic metre, more than double the safe limit of 80, reports the BBC.

The temporary ban will see cars with odd-numbered registration plates able to ride on Monday, then those with even numbered reg plates on Tuesday. Public transport has been made free of charge for a number of days while the ban is in place.

Traffic pollution has recently been closely linked to heart risks according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

London is regularly reported to be another of Europe’s worst air pollution offenders. The not-so-refined air of Buckingham Palace had the UK’s highest level of toxic gas nitrogen dioxide in 2012. In 2008, the Greater London Authority (GLA) estimated that there were 4,267 deaths attributable to long-term exposure to small air particles and the Mayor is committed to including air quality in the wider public health agenda in London where appropriate.

There is a precedent for London following the lead of Paris – at least in terms of cycle hire: Paris’ Velib launched in 2007, while Barclays Cycle Hire opened in 2010.

In February the European Commission launched legal proceedings against the UK for neglecting to deal with "excessive" levels of NO2 in many cities.

Could London ever take the plunge and ban cars temporarily to make air quality less lethal, or is it a case of ‘never mind the helmets, it’s smog masks we need’ for cyclists in the capital?

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