Attention, you are entering a low emission zone: the DGT creates a sign for restricted areas
No access sign in the Madrid Central low emissions area.Samuel Sanchez

The General Directorate of Traffic has created a sign to indicate that you are entering a low emission zone (LEZ), that is, an area restricted for the most polluting cars. Currently, in Spain there are only two of these areas, Madrid Central and the Barcelona LEZ, but the new Climate Change Law will force all cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants to have one before 2023. However, The Ministry of Ecological Transition has yet to define what an LEZ considers, given that the two existing ones have different characteristics and also the Madrid City Council is going to decaffeinate Madrid Central, allowing more old cars to enter the city center.

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Low emission zones are spaces, normally located in the center of towns, which cannot be accessed by the most polluting vehicles, generally the oldest ones. In Europe there are more than 300 such areas, according to a count by EL PAÍS, including all the major capitals: Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Athens … However, there is no single definition of how much space they should occupy, which vehicles should be excluded from the restrictions or how access should be controlled.

Both Madrid and Barcelona have their own signs in their restricted traffic areas. Now, the DGT has created a new easy-to-identify vertical signage that will allow citizens to know that they are approaching or accessing an LEZ, as well as the traffic restrictions that affect them. The sign shows a car emitting smoke surrounded by a circle of forbidden to circulate, and adds in the lower part the environmental badges that can access the area. In the image, 0 emissions, Eco and C vehicles are allowed access, although it remains to be seen if the recommendations of the Ministry of Ecological Transition go in the same direction.

The new DGT signal to identify low emission zones in Spain.
The new DGT signal to identify low emission zones in Spain. FERNANDO MARTINEZ NAJERA

In Spain, the classification of vehicles is carried out according to the DGT labels, which distinguish several cases: gasoline cars registered before 2000 and diesel cars before 2006 lack a label, so in general they cannot access any of the these areas. Label B corresponds to gasoline cars from 2000 to 2006 and diesel from 2006 to 2013. Label C, for gasoline after 2006 and diesel after 2014. Eco: hybrids in general. Zero: electric or hybrid with a range of more than 40 kilometers.

Until now, each low-emission zone has been organized according to its City Council. Manuela Carmena applied Madrid Central since the end of 2018 and restricted the area to vehicles without a tag, unless they were residents. Vehicles B and C can enter only if they are going to park in any parking public access. Meanwhile, the Eco and 0 emissions can enter without limits and park in the entire area. In Barcelona, ​​on the other hand, the LEZ prohibits vehicles without a label from circulating in the city and four neighboring municipalities since January 2020. It is, therefore, looser than Madrid Central, but occupies a much larger area.

The Ministry of Ecological Transition will be in charge of giving common guidelines for all cities; in fact, they are already working on guidelines for the establishment of LEZs that will facilitate their development. From Madrid to Utrera, in Spain there are almost 150 municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. All of them will have to install one of these areas before 2023, as well as some municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants when the legal limit values ​​for pollutants are exceeded. “The LEZs contribute both to the improvement of air quality and the health of citizens as well as to the mitigation of climate change and noise pollution, and represent a stimulus for the energy efficiency of transport, promoting its electrification”, explains the DGT in your note.

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