Traffic restrictions during pollution episodes

As from December, cars without environmental labels issued by the DGT and which are those that pollute the most, will not be allowed to circulate in low emissions zones around Barcelona’s ring roads during pollution episodes.

Cars with the highest emissions will be unable to circulate when the Government of Catalonia declares a pollution episode in the low emissions zone. The zone includes Barcelona (except for neighbourhoods in Collserola, the industrial area in the Zona Franca and the ring roads themselves), nearly all neighbourhoods in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Sant Adrià de Besòs, and neighbourhoods in Cornellà and Esplugues de Llobregat which are within the perimeter of the ring roads.

The measure, which comes into effect on 1 December this year, will affect cars without Zero, Eco, C or B rated environmental stickers issued by the Spanish Directorate General of Traffic (DGT). That means petrol-driven vehicles licensed before the year 2000 (prior to Euro 3) and diesel vehicles licenced before 2006 (prior to Euro 4). In the winter and spring of 2017-2018, EURO 1 and EURO 4 vans will be temporarily exempt and restrictions will only apply to vans licensed before Euro 1 (prior to 1997).

Find out here which environmental label corresponds to your vehicle and its potential to pollute, according to the DGT classification.

Traffic restrictions will apply from 7 am to 8 pm, Monday to Thursday, from the day after the pollution episode is declared. The times to be applied on Fridays are still to be decided.

As a result, the vehicles mentioned will only be allowed to circulate at night while the episode lasts, from 8 pm to 7 am on working days and all day at weekends and on public holidays.

Emergency vehicles (police, fire and ambulances), vehicles used by people with reduced mobility and essential services will be able to circulate regardless of which DGT label they have. Similarly, during this period, motorcycles which have so far not been issued with DGT stickers will also be able to circulate. Apart from motorcycles, there will also be an evaluation for the upcoming protocol on lorries, coaches, buses and vans with Euro1, Euro 2 and Euro 3 ratings.

What is a pollution episode?

It is an occasional set of circumstances declared by the Government of Catalonia when levels of atmospheric pollutants (PM10 suspended particles and nitrogen oxide, NO2) registered at more than one station in the Air Pollution Monitoring and Forecasting Network in Catalonia (XVPCA) in the area exceed established EU limits and no improvements are forecast.

As well as the restrictions on polluting vehicles, when there is an NO2 pollution episode people will be urged to use public transport. All possible channels will also be used to provide the public with full information and road signs will be placed at the exits on the ring roads and urban areas in the low emissions zone to announce the delimitation and restrictions on circulation.

Public health as a priority

Over two hundred cities in Europe already have low emissions zones where access is restricted for the most polluting vehicles as one of the most effective measures for helping air quality.

The population of Barcelona is exposed to pollution levels which exceed those recommended by the WHO. If those recommended levels could be achieved, it is estimated that Barcelona could avoid 659 premature deaths every year. The inhalation of particles worsens some illnesses, with children, the elderly, people with heart or lung conditions, people with asthma and pregnant women all faring worst.

Goal for 2020

The restrictions, which for the moment will only apply during pollution episodes, will gradually become permanent and apply outside of declared episodes. They will apply to all vehicles without the DGT label in January 2020, when all the measures to improve public transport and parking will have been applied, as well as other planned alternatives and compensatory measures.