Air pollution in the city down by more than 30%
Measures introduced since 2015 to boost sustainable mobility and cut the number of vehicles generating emissions have led to better air quality and a 31% reduction in air pollution. The growth of the bike lane network, the rollout of the superblock project, the switch to electric vehicles for the municipal fleet and the implementation of the low emission zone have demonstrated the effectiveness of a model which prioritises people’s health and environmental sustainability.
Data collected from air quality monitoring stations in the last eight years show a steady drop in NO2 emissions. These measuring points making up Catalonia’s air-quality monitoring network are managed in the city by the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) and can be consulted online on the Barcelona air quality map.
The stations are located at strategic points which represent the areas with the highest volumes of traffic (traffic stations) and the areas with the lowest intensity of traffic (general stations). A reduction in air pollution has been observed in both cases:
- Traffic stations: NO2 emissions averaged 55 points in 2015, while this year’s figure puts them 28 points, a drop of 31%.
- General stations: NO2 emissions at these stations averaged 38 points in 2015, while this year’s figure puts then at 25 points, a drop of 34%.
A healthier and more sustainable city model
The improvement in air quality comes after the city embraced measures to change its urban planning and mobility model. The reduction in the last eight years is not the result of one specific measure, but rather a set of coordinated steps with common goals.
A key factor in promoting sustainable mobility has been the new orthogonal bus network and the expansion of the metro network as far as La Marina. The growth in the bike lane network has seen this reach 240 kilometres in all, resulting in 56% more bike journeys and over 58,000 new routes.
The changes to the urban environment have also helped incentivise journeys on foot, with more friendly streets and more space for pedestrians. The implementation of the Barcelona Superblock and the “Protecting Schools” programme have transformed key spaces for neighbourhood life, with significant improvements in health and air quality thanks to the reduction in traffic.
The activation of the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) has meant a reduction of 600,000 journeys by vehicles which pollute the most. The gradual switch to electric vehicles for the municipal fleet of the City Police and cleaning and waste collection vehicles has also helped cut pollutant emissions.
The Covid-19 crisis has changed the dynamics of some jobs, with the implementation of teleworking maintained since the return to normality. Estimates put the percentage of the population teleworking before the pandemic at 4%. The forecast is for that figure to double, with a stable teleworking population of up to 8%.