The jumble of environmental zones: it gets even worse

Environmental zone

Our country has a maze of environmental zones. In addition to trucks, cities can also close their centers to diesel passenger cars and vans. An alternative is the choice for traffic-calmed areas. City locations are rapidly emerging where the car is literally a guest and pedestrians, cyclists and green areas have priority. Get used to it!

For the average motorist there is no longer a rope to tie to the quartets with environmental zones. One municipality does set up an environmental zone, the other does not, the next only for trucks. Municipalities determine their own course in this, and it just depends on whether, given their political leanings, they have more or less affinity with cars, vans and other vehicles in the city center. This has resulted in bizarre situations in the recent past. Maastricht had the idea to use the German environmental sticker, because many Limburgers already had it on their car. Rotterdam was called back by the judge and even the Council of State because older petrol cars were very easily banned there.

It is good for the worried diesel driver to know that after the debacle of those environmentally-creative cities, The Hague has finally pulled the handbrake. State Secretary Van Veldhoven of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management drew up rules to prevent the passenger car and van drivers from suddenly not being able to enter their own city. Since 2020, uniform environmental zones in two classes have been used: yellow is only accessible for diesel passenger cars that meet at least the Euro 3 standard, green sets the limit at Euro 4 for these cars. environmental zone, only in Utrecht was the yellow zone valid until April of this year. This only applies to diesels and not to petrol or, say, LPG drivers. They cannot be banned at this time.

More cities to follow

But what’s next? Owners of somewhat older diesel models are particularly concerned about the coming years. With a car from before 2006 you are no longer allowed to enter the green environmental zone of the four major cities. Amsterdam and Utrecht are the real forerunners, but other cities will follow. Nine other cities have set up an environmental zone to ban older trucks up to and including Euro 3. It is expected that the G40, the partnership of forty (medium) large cities in our country, will also move in that direction. However, the individual municipalities determine their own policy. In addition, we as citizens will soon have the opportunity to influence it with the voting pencil.

Municipal elections will be held again on March 16, 2022. The general expectation is that environmental zones will be introduced in more cities in the coming years. This will therefore be an important electoral theme in municipal elections in many municipalities. Because in addition to the restrictions for diesel cars, a municipality can take even more measures. Think of 30-kilometer zones, making a fuss about parking permits, exceptionally high parking costs and otherwise throttling car traffic. The next official and nationally determined passenger car milestone will be at the beginning of 2025. Then municipalities can opt for a new blue environmental zone that sets the limit at Euro 5 for diesels (the emission standard for cars was introduced in 2009). The year 2025: that sounds far away, but in more than three years it will already be that time. If you buy a second-hand car that at first sight may not even be very old, there is an increasing problem with it.

It goes even further. In the same year 2025, a much more talked-about milestone takes place. From 1 January, municipalities can set up the first zero emission zones. Only feasible with electric and fuel cell electric propulsion in practice. This does not yet apply to passenger cars, but it does to delivery vans and trucks.

Environmental zone

Hundreds of thousands in trouble

What is the size of the group that is put in front of the block? How many motorists with diesels of 15 years and older are there? Statistics Netherlands has calculated for us that more than 102,000 users of passenger cars and more than 106,000 users of diesel delivery vehicles have a problem. From 2025, the latter category of drivers in particular will have to find a solution if they want to enter the cities for service or delivery. In fact, if there is a blue zero-emission zone, this will apply to all nearly 900,000 vans.

Do not think that the soup is not eaten so hot. Take a look at the website of Zero Emission City Logistics predicts that 30 to 40 cities will soon introduce a zero-emission zone for delivery vans and trucks. That decision has already been taken in 21 municipalities across the country. You can count on your fingers that they also target passenger car traffic, but that is not allowed yet. With the emphasis on still, because in circles of the RAI Association it is expected that the pressure from Europe will increase enormously in the coming years. Perhaps that will inspire a forthcoming cabinet to tackle the matter even more firmly. The European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ package aims for a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. So zero city emissions for passenger cars will quickly come into view.

Instead of banning certain cars, municipalities also have other options for reducing emissions. The pioneers of these urban developments – Amsterdam and Utrecht – are working on radically changing the urban layout. The introduction of a speed limit of 30 km/h is also noted with punctuality.

A recent example – Amersfoort – gives us a glimpse into the future. The municipality is not necessarily thinking of closing off the city center. “With a car-free city center you achieve much of the same result in a different way,” said a spokesperson. “We are trying to make the supplies to shops CO2-neutral, the postal services are already doing that. For example, there is also a subsidy pot for environmentally friendly last mile to support applications during relocations.”

Street car guest center

Car guest

The car guest

In the area from the station to the center, Amersfoort really has a new approach in mind. Now you mainly see a sea of ​​bicycles and wide bus lanes there. Landscape architect Ivana Zambeli has outlined how that area can look very different. Green especially, with space for cyclists and pedestrians. The design concerns terms such as a green residential square, gardens, a green pedestrian promenade towards the city center and a ‘pocket park’. The now average city street Snouckaertlaan – housing, shops and cinemas – will be transformed into a matching ‘tree-lined historic avenue with a bicycle profile’. Cars are literally a guest there. This is not science fiction, it can be realized within a year or two. “The design no longer just looks at mobility, but integrates a broader package,” says Zambeli. “I think you will see that trend in other cities as well. If this is chosen, it can play at the station from 2025, because first the bicycles have to be moved to a new large bicycle cellar to free up the space.” In the station area, the currently predominant bus lanes – for two thousand buses a day – have to share their space. About six meters to be exact. This is used for trees and other greenery, a walking area and a fairly wide bicycle path. It is clear: cities see the change much broader than the environmental zone alone.

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