The effect of “Car-free Sunday”, organised in around forty cities and communes in Belgium, on air quality is directly visible. This was indicated by Frans Fierens, of the inter-regional cell for the environment (appropriately known as CELINE). “The presence within the air of soot particles, emitted by diesel engines, was down by half from the beginning of the day.”
The CELINE spokesman said, “The effect on soot particle concentrations was visible from the moment the driving ban was put in place.”
Observations from two measuring stations, one in Ixelles (which was car-free) and the other at Borgerhout (in Antwerp, which continued as a car-zone), demonstrates that the quantity of soot particles emitted by diesel engines reduced by half in the car-prohibited zone in Brussels.
Fierens went on that this type of drive “is much more likely to produce a sustainable effect.”
Fierens however states that there has only been an initial evaluation from the day, and that air quality in the atmosphere above Brussels is also determined by both the weather and pollution around the Brussels region.
There is a procedure relating to findings of an infringement by the European Commission currently in progress owing to exceeding threshold levels of nitrogen dioxide.
Fierens adds, “Although Brussels indeed wishes remedy the situation, more than one car-free day a year is necessary. Diesel emissions need to drastically reduce.”
He refers to the public debate in Germany in which the city of Düsseldorf may consider the prohibition on diesel cars, following a legal ruling.
He concludes, “The European Commission has exerted pressure, by threatening procedures for infringement findings but there is also public opinion which has started to raise awareness, following Diesel Gate, of the damaging effect of diesel on health.”