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Low-speed zones have made Berlin's air cleaner

Low-speed zones in Berlin: an air quality success story

Low-speed zones in Berlin: an air quality success story

Extremely effective in reducing nitrogen dioxide emissions

Recently, local authorities in Berlin said that the pilot project to introduce low-speed zones in certain areas of the city, also known as ‘Tempo 30’, was a resounding success. The zones aimed to reduce air pollution from traffic and, according to a statement by the city, will remain in place after the trial phase.

A cheaper way to limit traffic pollution

The project started back in 2017 and it introduced a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour on five main roads. Despite the project being deemed a success in four out of the five routes, local authorities have announced that the speed limit will stay in all five.

Initially, this caused a lot of creeping traffic, as well as a spillover into the adjacent smaller streets and longer times for public transport. However, after some technical adjustments to traffic lights and an increase in the number of vehicles running the route, the situation normalised.

The whole project cost the Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer and Climate Protection 850,000 euros, and it cost the BVG, Berlin’s public transport operator, 650,000 euros for the additional vehicles.

Tempo 30 – the road to burning less fuel

According to the research, carried out between 2017 and 2019, Tempo 30 has been successful in significantly reducing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in four out of the five cases. This reduction is measured compared to 50 kilometres per hour roads in Berlin and results account for the higher fuel efficiency of cars in recent years.

The outlier, Potsdamer Straße in the Tempelhof-Schöneberg district, did not see any major reductions in emissions, due to the poor traffic flow. In fact, congestion remained high even at 50 kilometres per hour. Researchers have recommended additional measures to avoid stop and go traffic in the zone, however, specific measures have yet to be announced.

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