With busy streets and heavy congestion, Barcelona has struggled to remain within the European Union’s nitrogen oxide limits since 2002. The problem has got so bad that, from 2010 to 2017, over 400 deaths were put down to the poor air quality.

With that in mind, it’s very much a case of “new year, new me” in the Catalan capital as over 50,000 vehicles are set to be banned from driving in the city.

Since the first of January, all petrol-powered cars registered before the year two 2000 and all those powered by diesel registered before 2006 are banned from entering a low emission zone. The defined area covers 59.5 square kilometres defined by the B-10 and B-20 ring roads. This makes it the largest low-emission zone in Southern Europe.

Those that choose to ignore the ban will easily be caught thanks to a network of 150 cameras setup around the area. They will also be met with a hefty fine of between 100 and 500€ each time they enter the zone with a car that doesn’t meet the city’s criteria.

The city’s mayor office has said that this ban will affect more than 50,000 vehicles and is hoping for a 20% reduction in air pollution within the next 4 years.

Thankfully for those that do drive around Spain’s second largest city, the ban will be lifted on weekends and at night-time from 8pm to 7am. However, that still leaves a large portion of the city’s inhabitants with a car they can’t use. Therefore, fines won’t be enforced for the first three months of the year giving people the chance to find a more modern vehicle.

It has also been announced that delivery drivers and those that can prove they earn less than 8,000€ a year will be exempt from the ban for the first year.

It seems the new law will be very successful as the idea is inspired by Madrid’s total vehicle ban in the city centre that was introduced last year. Since then, the Spanish capital has seen a 48% decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels.

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