Network Updates / Barcelona, Spain / 2019-12-17

Low emissions zone in central Barcelona starts in January:

Owners of most polluting vehicles enticed to scrap vehicles with free public transport card

Barcelona, Spain
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On 1 January 2020, Barcelona will join the ranks of a growing number of cities in Europe that have a ring-fenced low emissions zone, allowing in only vehicles that qualify for and bear an environmental label.

The 95-square-kilometre zone, comprising Barcelona centre and four surrounding municipalities, locks out the most polluting vehicles owned by those living outside the centre, and is estimated to affect about 50,000 vehicles, including cars, motorcycles and trucks, or 5 per cent of the area’s vehicle fleet.

Drivers of such vehicles face fines of between €200 and €1,800 if they are caught circulating in the zone on weekdays from 7am to 8pm.

To soften the blow, residents of these vehicles are offered a free public transport card for three years in the city centre, provided they do not buy a new vehicle in that period– and more than 5,700 Barcelona residents so far have taken up the offer.

The government is developing other initiatives to support car-free connectivity in the city centre, including new cycle lanes, increased public transport options, and the much-discussed “superblocks“, resident-only areas.

All in all, the Catalan capital expects the measures to lead to 20 per cent of the current vehicles taken off the roads and a 15 per cent fall in air pollution.

A report by the Barcelona Public Health Agency found that air pollution led to 351 premature deaths in 2018; motor vehicles generate the main pollutant in the city, nitrogen dioxide, which 48 per cent of the city’s population are regularly exposed to at levels exceeding those recommended by the World Health Organization.

The most famous low-emission zone in Europe is likely London’s 24-hour Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which has already seen faster-than-expected falls in targeted pollutants, but momentum is growing in the region to cut health-harmful air pollutants from city roads: from car-bans in Pontevedra and Madrid (and creative car deterrents in Oslo), to fellow LEZs in over 250 European cities.

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Banner photo: Robert Ramos/AMB. Metropolis Secretariat General Barcelona/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0