The Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (BMA) have this week launched the first joint informative campaign to explain to the users of private vehicles and the citizens in general, how the low emission zone for the Barcelona area (LEZ, Barcelona area) will be put into operation on December 1 2017.
This will impose restrictions in this area for the highest polluting vehicles. Initially, the restrictions will apply when the Generalitat, the regional government of Catalonia, declares an episode of atmospheric pollution (which only occurs around 2 or 3 times a year), but from the year 2020 the measure will be permanent.
The mayoral representative for Ecology, Urban Planning and Mobility, Janet Sanz, says that the Barcelona City Council is committed to “creating a city that guarantees people’s right to health” and has added that “one of the key objectives is the fight against pollution.”
“We have committed to promoting public transport, cycling and travelling on foot, and we will continue to do so, but it is not enough” says Sanz, who pointed out that “it is necessary to stop the highest-polluting cars from circulating through the city.”
For this reason the Barcelona City Council has organised, with the rest of the public administration bodies, the low emission zones which will now be put into effect. “The citizens need to be provided with all of the information, and therefore we are launching an important communication campaign, with all of the details and alternatives, because to make the city healthier we need the collaboration of everyone, because it is together that we can make it possible” she concluded.
For his part, the BMA’s vice president of Mobility and Transport, Antoni Poveda, explained that “we must move forward to change habits towards a more sustainable mobility that is free of fumes, to benefit people’s health and get citizens to think about the need to all act together for the common good.”
“It is a public health issue. We must remember that air pollution aggravates illnesses and causes premature deaths” added Poveda, who also emphasised that “what we are doing at the BMA and the metropolitan municipalities is preparing ourselves to comply with the different administrations’ agreement at the summit of March 6, 2017, and be ready for the date of December 1 2017.”
The campaign, which will be active for one month and will involve the collaboration of the other four municipalities affected by the LEZ for the Barcelona area (l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Sant Adrià de Besòs, Esplugues de Llobregat and Cornellà de Llobregat), aims to explain the territorial delimitation of this low emission area before it is put into action, and its ultimate reason for being: to guarantee healthy air quality for people.
Pollution, at the limit
Pollution is an important problem. In 2016 Barcelona exceeded the values of the World Health Organisation (WHO) report for NO2 pollutants, particulate material (PM10 and PM2.5), benzene, ozone and benzo(a)pyrene.
With respect to the regulations in force all over Europe, in 2016 the corresponding limit values or targets set out for 11 pollutants were met but the annual limit value of Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was exceeded.
Therefore, 68% of the population of Barcelona are exposed to higher levels than those set out for NO2 nitrogen oxides (both the EU limits and those of the WHO report). In the case of particulate material, 97% of the population are potentially exposed to higher level than those set out by the WHO report.
Transport and alternatives to the private vehicle
Another of the objectives the campaign is working towards is providing city residents with accompanying information and transport alternatives on their routes and daily travels, in cases where they are affected by the restriction.
The purpose is to encourage private vehicle users to adapt their habits to the new traffic restriction with peace of mind and without refusal. In this sense, both the BMA and the Barcelona City Council offer all the necessary information on their websites.
The BMA has launched the website canvidhabits.com, which broadly explains the measure and lets citizens resolve the most frequent doubts about the traffic restrictions.
For example, with an online tool, the citizen can input the vehicle license and find out if it is affected by this measure, or find out the new environmental titles for alternative transport to the private vehicle (T-air and T-green). The website also offers alternative routes, with public transport and parking (park&ride), among other resources.
The municipal Air Quality website brings together all the information about the state of city’s air quality, with advice and tools to reduce pollution and make the city healthier.
The municipal website offers an air quality map, a detailed map of the low emission zone, tools to check online whether or not the restriction affects each vehicle in the municipality of Barcelona from its registration, or special reinforcements of public transport, among other things.
LEZ in and around Barcelona: area, timetables, days and exceptions
From December 1 2017, in the case of an environmental pollution episode, cars which do not have a DGT environmental label (Zero, Eco, C and B) will not be able to travel in this low emission zone.
Specifically, the vehicles affected by this restriction, those which do not have a label, correspond to petrol cars from before 2000 (before Euro 3) and diesel cars before 2006 (before Euro 4).
Between winter and spring 2017-2018, restrictions on motorbikes, lorries, coaches, buses and vans of Euro 1, Euro 2 and Euro 3 will be added, which are exempt from the measure in 2017.
Emergency vehicles, vehicles for people with reduced mobility and essential services will always be able to travel, independently of their DGT label.
The traffic restrictions will be in effect between 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM on working days, from the day after the declaration until the day on which the end of the episode is declared. Therefore, while an episode continues, the vehicles mentioned will only be able to travel in the timeslot between 8:00 PM and 6:59 AM on working days, and all weekends and holidays.
Reinforcing public transport on days of pollution episodes
During pollution episodes, public transport will be at maximum operational capacity; the number of metros, buses, trams, and FGC and Rodalies trains on offer will be increased, especially at peak times during the episode.
T-air will also be activated, the card for the days during a pollution episode. From October 2, the T-green can be acquired, which allows free, unlimited journeys for three years for city residents who get rid of a polluting vehicle and do not buy another.
Regarding the BMA public transport reinforcements, the metro network will be reinforced during peak times, which last until 11:00 AM, with one more train on each conventional line and staff for information and attention at the stations with the most users and those which connect with other rail networks.
In relation to metropolitan buses, the routes with highest demand will be reinforced. 30 buses will be incorporated on the BMA metropolitan bus lines at peak times, 15 in Baix Llobregat and another 15 in north Barcelonès. These reinforcements will be carried out in peak times of the morning and evening.
In order to facilitate the circulation of public transport vehicles, the Catalan Transit Service will install a provisional bus lane entrance to Barcelona on the B-23 during the environmental episode and the BMA will boost permanent measures to improve the bus lane entrance to Barcelona through Gran Via, C31 South.