Despite improved air quality, many cities in Germany are still threatened with diesel driving bans. It is also feared that the WHO's lowering of the limit value for ultrafine particulate matter will mean that even more cities will have to introduce driving bans.
Stricter controls are already in place in various cities. Example Darmstadt: The environmental zone in Darmstadt consists of two streets, Hügelstrasse and Heinrichstrasse. Hügelstrasse at the City Tunnel is one of the dirtiest in the entire state of Hesse. But despite noticeable successes, there are still cars that disregard the zone. Therefore, random and suspicionless checks are now to be intensified. In Berlin, there were eight road sections affected by a diesel driving ban. But in May of this year, the air quality had improved so much that the ban was lifted again on four sections. In Hamburg, Max-Brauer-Allee and Stresemannstrasse are affected by diesel driving bans. Other road sections are also currently being tested. The air is particularly bad in the Bavarian state capital, where it constantly exceeds the permitted limit. Munich has already been ordered by a court to introduce driving bans, but the city authorities refuse even under threat of imprisonment.
The first bans were enforced by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), which brought the first lawsuit against the affected cities in 2018. Lawsuits were filed in 38 cities. The cities then announced programmes to reduce air pollution. But with these measures, it would have taken years to reduce the values according to the specifications. Therefore, the DUH demanded diesel driving bans.
In some cities, such as Esslingen, Nuremberg, Halle, Oldenburg and Bielefeld, it turned out that diesel driving bans were not necessary, as the air in these cities had improved considerably. Bonn and Dortmund also managed to avoid a diesel driving ban, but under certain conditions: Dortmund had to introduce an environmental lane and Bonn had to accept a speed limit of 30km/h on certain roads.
In other cities, such as Hanover, Essen, Frankfurt/M., Cologne and Aachen, a decision is still pending. If no settlement is reached to avoid diesel driving bans, these cities will still face driving bans. Mainz has introduced a route-related driving ban, which at the same time imposed a speed restriction to 30 Km/h. This means that at least one larger-scale zone is off the table.
So although it is far from clear how and whether the cities want to or can adhere to the limit values in the long term, further trouble is already looming. If the EU adopts the limit value for ultra-fine particulate matter (PM2.5) proposed by the WHO, new driving bans are threatened in more than 250 municipalities in Germany.
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