Road Signs Survey - Mix of measures and road signs
Road sign clutter in low emission zones
The European road sign clutter has recently had a few additions and there will be more. The reason: An ever increasing number of European cities establish low emission zones which obviously require new signs. High emission vehicles are banned from these zones or vehicle access is restricted. The basis of such low emission zones is a EU Directive obliging every country to improve air quality in high emission areas. Moreover, the EU has set pan-European limits for health-detrimental pollutants such as particulate matter. Many European cities are currently falling way too short of these targets.
While the EU Directive dictates the limits for certain pollutants and how often a year the emission levels may exceed these limits, it is up to each EU country to ensure that the targets are met. This means that, in the European attempt to curb emissions, every country introduces its own air quality measures and regulations. The result is a clutter of road signs since the variety of approaches to implement the Directive in the different European countries led to an equal variety of road signs.
Low emission zones in Germany Meanwhile, 24 German cities including Berlin, Hannover, Cologne and now also Munich have introduced low emission zones. At least 23 other towns and cities are expected to establish such zones by 2010. To access a low emission zone, vehicles - including foreign-registered vehicles - must carry a sticker specifying the Euro emission classification. The Euro emission classification determines the colour of the sticker - green, yellow or red. Driving a vehicle in a low emission zone without carrying a sticker will be subject to a €40 fine. German motorists will also have to face one penalty point.
Jumble in Italy Italy takes a different approach to curbing emissions. For the winter months, several smog-afflicted cities such as Bolzano introduced different restrictions on high emission vehicles. Milan opted for a special solution, introducing an emission-dependent congestion charge in addition to the seasonal driving ban. To access an Ecopass zone from Monday through Friday between 7:30 and 19:30 hours, motorists have to pay between two and ten Euros. The charge also applies to foreign-registered vehicles. Motorists accessing the inner city without the Ecopass will face a fine of at least €70.
HGV low emission zones, passenger car congestion charge
Motorists in the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden can breathe a sigh of relief. In these countries, restricted access to low emission zones only applies to HGV. London, however, introduced a congestion charge also for passenger cars in 2003. A daily ticket currently costs £8 regardless of the vehicle's emission level and whether the vehicle is driven or parked within the congestion charging zone.
Different countries, different rules
Low emission zones are only one way to provide long-term relief to high emission areas. Many European countries take other or additional measures such as driving bans for HGV or general speed limits on motorways as introduced on the Austrian A 1, A 10 and A 12. In Oslo, Norway, the speed limit on certain main roads is reduced from 80kph to 60kph in the winter.
Many countries promote their local public transport systems and upgrade their communal fleets. For instance Switzerland and Spain will convert their entire public transport fleets to low emission propulsion systems such as biogas or electric energy in the next years.
Some EU countries use tax incentives to achieve a long-term emission reduction. Spanish owners of low emission vehicles pay for instance only a quarter of the regular motor vehicle tax. In Switzerland, owners of gas vehicles are granted a 40% tax discount on natural and liquefied gas. And German motorists pay lower taxes on CNG and LPG than on petrol and diesel fuel.