The New Year got off to a smoggy start in Norway’s West Coast city of Bergen. It’s best known for lots of rain and wind, but the stillness of cold winter days this week set off air pollution alarms that prompted officials to restrict driving into downtown.
Only cars with license plates ending with an even number were allowed to pass the toll plazas into central Bergen on Wednesday, since its date was an even number as well (January 6). On Thursday, the 7th, odd-numbered cars would be allowed to pass, and on other odd-numbered days when restrictions were in place.
Cars containing three or more people can drive all days, but city officials were keen to dramatically reduce the number of cars on the road to cut emissions. “Residents’ health must come first,” Julie Andersland, the city government leader in charge of climate and environmental issues, stated in a press release. “High levels of air pollution for several days in a row are dangerous for both adults and children. We’re not taking any chances with people’s health.”
Bergen is a city surrounded by hills, and emissions can easily get trapped in the city basin when there’s no wind or breeze. There were other exceptions to the driving restrictions: All electric and hybrid cars were allowed on the road as were motorists heading for medical appointments, drivers with handicapped authorization and those driving cars used for work were also allowed into town, even if they had odd-numbered plates on the even-numbered day.
All other drivers of private cars faced fines of up to NOK 1,500 if caught violating the restrictions, which are eased between 10pm and 6am.