Lönnrotinkatu street in Helsinki will be a test bed for the ban on studded tires, Source: Helsinki Municipality

Helsinki declares war on street dust…by using friction tires

Helsinki declares war on street dust…by using friction tires

Fine particles are the most challenging piece of the air quality puzzle for this Nordic capital

This winter, Helsinki’s authorities are urging drivers to opt for friction, rather than studded, car tires. The reason has nothing to do with improved safety or economic considerations. Instead, the argument goes that friction tires are simply better for the environment as they cause fewer dust particles and less noise.

Apart from the informational campaign, there will be a parallel pilot project starting this autumn which will completely ban the use of studded tires on one Helsinki street for the next three years. The street in question is Lönnrotinkatu in Kamppi.

Thinking about car tires from a new perspective

Helsinki is by all accounts a champion city when it comes to air quality performance in the past 30 years. Nevertheless, one problem has really shown to be persistent despite all efforts – the concentration of fine dust particles in the city’s atmosphere.

Studies have shown that the main culprit behind the generation of this pollutant is the local motorized traffic and more specifically, the studded car tires which are preferred by drivers during the winter. Up to 40-50% of the street dust was generated by these tires since they create a sturdier impact on the road surfaces.

Today, the share of studded tires in Helsinki is about 70%. The goal set in Helsinki's air protection plan is to reduce the share of studded tires to 30% and increase the share of friction tires to 70% by the winter season 2030−2031.

The popularity of these tires stems from the impression that they provide better control and safety for winter driving.

However, research done in Stockholm and Oslo has shown that increased use in friction tires does not lead to more accidents. What’s more, the grip properties of studded tires are better on ice, whereas the grip properties of friction tires are better on snow. In Helsinki, however, severe ice is much rarer than in the rest of the country, and road surface freezing is prevented by anti-slippery methods based on salting. Thus, driving style affects safety more than tire type.



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