How Europe’s biggest cities fight pollution

massive cloud

Despite all the anti-climate change enthusiasts out there, pollution is a major deal in most of the European cities these days.

London Urban Tollbooth

In London, polluting vehicles can still access the centre if they pay for it. 11.50 pounds per day (12.9 euros). This urban toll, introduced in 2003, is in effect between 7 a. m. and 6 p. m., Monday to Friday. Drivers can pay by phone, SMS, Internet or in a fully equipped shop. Some of them are exempt, such as motorcycles, taxis, those running on alternative fuels…

Surveillance cameras are automatically reading license plates. Any delay will result in an increase.
The British capital is also developing bicycle paths. The public transit authority, Transport for London (TfL), is working on an urban development plan and in June released a map of 25 lanes in the capital for cyclists based on potential demand. The country will ban diesel cars by 2040.

european map of pollution

The centre of Madrid is pedestrianised

The mayor, Manuela Carmena, promised at the end of 2016 the near-pedestrianisation by May 2019 of the Gran Via, one of the city’s symbols. This central avenue will only be accessible to cyclists, buses and taxis. This decision is part of the plan to ban cars from part of its city centre, 2 km², by 2020. Urban planners are working on the transformation of 24 busy streets into pedestrian areas. Drivers who break the rules will pay at least 90 euros in fines and the most polluting drivers will have to pay more to park in car parks.

Cycling is king in Copenhagen

The city has set itself the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. It targets 50% of cycling by 2025. The Danish capital has planned to invest 134 million euros in ten years. In particular, it has drawn up a plan for bicycle superhighways, which will extend to the nearby suburbs. The first of the 28 planned routes opened in 2014, with a further 11 roads expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

New street furniture is also being designed – railings to avoid putting your feet on the ground at the fire, bins tilted towards the slopes… Intermodality is encouraged: bicycles are transported free of charge in regional trains. The generalisation of the speed limit to 40 km/h and the disappearance of car parks completes the system, in order to dissuade motorists.

Oslo tackles parking lots

paris under the fogThe Norwegian capital had announced in 2015 that it would ban cars from its city centre by 2019. This ban is accompanied by a public transport investment plan and the replacement of 56 kilometres of roads with cycle paths. In June, the city council planned to dissuade motorists by closing parking spaces.

Oxford relies on electricity

Oxford, the first British city to ban all non-electric vehicles, wants to create a zero-emission zone in part of the city centre. Six streets will be closed to combustion-powered vehicles by 2020, including buses and taxis. The area will be gradually extended to the entire city centre and all vehicles by 2035. In addition, users of electric cars will pay less for parking. Total cost of the measure: approximately £7 million (EUR 7,9 million) for the city, county, bus, taxi and other companies. An equivalent amount of money will be spent on infrastructure, including surveillance cameras capable of reading license plates. Fines will be automatically sent to offenders.

Brussels, giant pedestrian zone

It is the largest pedestrian zone in Europe, covering more than 50 hectares. Since June 2015, from Place De Brouckère to Place Fontainas, the boulevards and adjacent streets have been permanently closed to traffic. The city continues to expand its pedestrian zones. The Belgian capital launched its first “Mobility Week” in 2002, to encourage residents to take public or alternative transport.

Berlin monitors its emissions

In 2008, the German capital created an 88 km² low-emission urban area in the centre of the city, which affects about a third of its inhabitants. All gasoline and diesel vehicles that do not meet the established criteria are prohibited. Berlin also announced in March a plan to build a dozen “superhighway” roads for cyclists, which will be launched at the end of the year.