Air pollutants dropped significantly during Car Free Sunday
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Air pollutants dropped significantly during Car Free Sunday

People enjoying the 2020 edition of Car Free Sunday in Brussels. © Belga

Brussels saw a dramatic drop in air pollutants during the yearly Car Free Sunday, figures recorded at a key quality monitoring station show.

Brussels residents on Sunday took to the streets of the Belgian capital for the now traditional Car Free Sunday, a day in which all types of motorised vehicles are banned from circulation. The ban also applies to electric cars or mopeds but allows electric bikes.

On Sunday, the monitoring station at the traditionally congested Rue de La Loi in the European Quarter recorded a reduction of 77 to 93% of nitric oxide (NO) concentrations, compared to a regular weekday.

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When compared to another regular Sunday, the reduction of NO concentrations was between 56% and 85%, according to the data, published by the environmental agency Interregional Environment Unit (CELINE) online.

The drop of concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, another air pollutant linked to vehicle traffic, also decreased between 47 and 74% compared to a regular weekday and 22 to 62% when compared to a regular Sunday.

Lucas Demuelenaere, a climate policy expert and adviser to Brussels’ Climate Transition Minister Alain Maron said the effects of stripping the capital of vehicle traffic for just one day were “significant.”

Demuelenaere said that the clear weather conditions on Sunday played a role in the recorded pollutant concentrations, but said the figures are a “reminder that transport is a significant source of air pollution.”

Sharing the figures on Twitter, Elke Van den Brandt, regional mobility minister and a fierce advocate for the reduction of vehicle traffic in the city, said Brussels was “breathing.”

The latest carfree day in Brussels also led to fewer requests by motorists seeking an exemption for the ban: in 2010, 21,000 applied for an exemption, compared to 15,000 a decade later.

The Brussels Times