Mobility club VAB doesn’t want any extra LEZs
Mobility Club VAB advises Belgian cities and municipalities not to introduce new low-emission zones (LEZ), for the time being. There are still too many uncertainties, they say. Measurements taken by the Flemish Environment Agency show that the impact on air quality is not convincing, especially when it comes to nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Consequently, according to VAB, social implications threaten to take on “irresponsibly large proportions” in 2025.
The existing LEZs in Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent need not be abolished – after all, they are considered excellent test cases – but the VAB would prefer not to see any more in the near future. Apart from the fact that the impact on air quality is not yet convincing, the VAB also considers it advisable to properly map out the consequences on road safety and pressure before creating new LEZs. “Perhaps other mobility measures would be more effective,” says spokesperson Joni Jones.
Doubts about LEZ
The advice sounds like music to seven out of ten local authorities: they see more benefit in other measures. A survey conducted by VAB among 300 Flemish cities and municipalities indeed shows that seven out of ten mayors have doubts about the usefulness of a LEZ.
They believe, for example, that a circulation plan, a zone 30, or a reduced-traffic or car-free zone can do more for the livability. The LEZs are also increasingly being questioned from a political perspective. Only last week, the socialist party sp.a pointed out that it is mainly lower incomes that are a victim of it.
VAB itself sees salvation mainly in circulation plans. “Because the effect on air quality is greater,” says Joni Jones in the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. “A circulation plan takes the cars out of the city center. People are discouraged from going to the city by car and are looking for an alternative. This also improves road safety.
The mobility association also questioned 4.000 motorists. The statement ‘a city may only introduce a LEZ if sufficient alternatives are offered to the car’ appears to be fully accepted by people over 65 years of age. “Fully-fledged alternatives must be developed, if not the social aspect is overlooked. Trains, trams, and buses are a must, especially for the elderly. They drop out as cyclists because of their physical limitations.”
Lower-income groups vulnerable
Sp.a already pointed out last week that the lower-income groups are extra vulnerable to the consequences of the introduction of a LEZ. They drive more often with an older car. Moreover, the neighborhoods where they mainly live often fall outside such a zone. “So not only are they forced to replace their car with a cleaner one, they don’t even enjoy the air quality that would improve,” although the latter view is, of course, rather unsocial.
Anyone who firmly believes in the usefulness of LEZs is traffic expert Willy Miermans. “What nonsense. Cities and towns really shouldn’t wait with a low-emission zone. They just come up with easy arguments to postpone actions. Then give the people who are affected a free season ticket for public transport.”
“We have to stop making exceptions to the rules. And that concerns seniors… like the whole of Flanders is on the rollator. That’s such a killer. Agreed, a circulation plan is the best solution, but a LEZ puts pressure on manufacturers to develop better cars. If you drive an old car, you can redeem your sins for a while, but it’s an incentive to get rid of your car.”
VAB also believes that improving air quality starts with a decent car. “Air quality is a matter for the whole of Flanders,” concludes Junes. “That’s why it would be better to adjust your behavior when you buy a car. The reform of the registration tax can be organized in such a way that even the most polluting cars are no longer sold second-hand.”
For your consideration: on the effectiveness of these low-emission zones itself, opinions differ even among experts.