A Bristol councillor is calling for a London-style Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in the city centre – for which the most polluting vehicles will be forced to pay a fee to enter.
Cllr Mark Wright said residents – particularly cyclists – in his Cabot ward bore the brunt of high traffic and, thus, air pollution levels.
He said an LEZ should only apply to the most polluting vehicles – such as older buses and lorries – and should encourage owners to upgrade to newer, cleaner fleets.
“It’s crazy. Bristol has some of the highest city cycling rates in the country. Yet it’s cyclists who get to breathe in the worst of Bristol’s poor quality air,” he said.
“I suggest the LEZ would be like the one in London, except that it would only target the most polluting vehicles over a certain tonnage, and so would generally only affect older buses and lorries.
“Users of those vehicles would have to pay a fee to enter the LEZ cordon, which could either be drawn around the whole city (as in London) or just the central areas.
“The daily fee for non-compliant vehicles for the London LEZ starts at around £100 per day for buses and lorries. Bristol’s level would be set independently of that, based on local factors, and would probably be a bit cheaper.”
Cllr Wright intends to make a statement about the plan to the Sustainable Development and Transport Scrutiny Commission later this week, in order to inject some urgency into plans which are, at present, only due for “exploration”.
“This contains no sense of urgency or certainty. I fear that it will not be taken forward with any vigour, and will therefore fall by the wayside,” he added.
London’s LEZ started operating on February 4, 2008 with phased introduction of an increasingly stricter regime through to January last year.
Despite opposition from groups such as haulier, it gained the support of key health organisations such as the British Lung Foundation and the British Heart Foundation.
In Bristol, dozens of streets exceed European air pollution levels, with nitrogen dioxide levels more than twice the EU limit in some roads. The European Commission (EC) last year threatened to prosecute the UK Government over air pollution in 12 cities, including Bristol.
Experts in the city say that while schemes such as this have partial benefits, to really address the issue of air pollution then a cultural, long-term shift is needed to reduce the numbers of all vehicles in the city centre.