The latest European Environment Agency report indicates that air pollution is responsible for over 500,000 premature deaths [pdf, p9] in Europe every year. The problem is especially serious in cities. Emssions from burning fossil fuels for transport is a major cause.

In February 2017, the website The Canary pubished a really useful roundup of what cities all round europe are doing to tackle the problem.

See the full article.

In summary, the article says that some cities focus on solving acute pollution, such as emergency protocols for air pollution spikes. Others seek long-term solutions - a change in street design and restrictions for the most polluting vehicles.

At the end of 2015, the mayor of Paris introduced emergency traffic bans on days of high pollution. Access is limited to odd- or even-numbered plates. In December 2016, the city made the bicycle and electric car sharing schemes free during the bans. From July 2016 cars built before 1997 can’t drive in the city centre between 8am and 8pm on weekdays.

In 2016, Madrid created an emergency protocol [Spanish] -he higher the air pollution is, the more severe the restrictions are.
Berlin only allows vehicles that meet certain emission standards into its “environmental zone” in the city centre.

Barcelona wants to divide the city into ‘superblocks‘, and by 2018 to cut the space devoted to cars in the city by 60%.

C40 Mayors Summit, Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City agreed to ban all diesel vehicles by 2025.

Tokyo has had a similar ban since 2000.

London, which was a pioneer in putting restrictions on cars with its Congestion Charge, also has some interesting plans for the future. In 2019, Kahn wants to create an “Ultra-Low Emission Zone” in central London, where polluting vehicles will have to pay an extra fee.

The trend in Europe is to reshape cities to ease the circulation of pedestrians and cyclists, while making the use of private cars less convenient. It follows the motto found in many Dutch cities, “auto te gast“, which means “cars are guests”.

Cities have dramatically changed to adapt to cars. But the situation has become unsustainable and it’s time to reverse the changes. We need to take our cities back, to make them more liveable. Our future depends on it.