Air QualityEnvironment & ClimateFossil Fuels

Cities across the globe are becoming car free spaces post Covid19, reducing air pollution & emissions.

By August 5, 2021 No Comments

We can all remember the haunting photographs of London during the first Covid19 lockdown. What would usually be bustling busy streets full of cars, buses, motorbikes, trucks & pedestrians; were suddenly empty, eerily silent spaces.

As we all stayed at home, cities in the UK & across the globe, fell silent.

However, little did we know as Covid19 took a hold, the environmental impact of all of the vehicles suddenly being taken off the roads. Here at Dolphin N2 we have explored extensively how much the CO2 emissions dropped during this time (albeit only a temporarily while strict restrictions were in place) & equally how much they have sadly bounced back & in some areas superseded pre-Covid levels.

However, before Covid19, many cities across the globe were already removing cars & trucks from their cities, in an attempt to reduce the urban CO2 emissions.

Oslo banned cars from the city in 2019, Copenhagen – home to the largest car free zone in Europe – began removing cars from the city centre in the 1960’s & Madrid slowly removed all cars, except for residents’ vehicles during 2019.

With an estimated 9 million people being killed prematurely each year due to air pollution, is it any wonder that global cities are on a mission to clean up their air?

In the UK, the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) has, under Mayor Sadiq Khan’s leadership, been extended further & further to remove polluting vehicles from the centre of London. With this in mind, the City of London’s Environment Strategy intends to integrate:

  • air quality
  • green infrastructure
  • climate change mitigation and energy
  • waste
  • adapting to climate change
  • ambient noise
  • low carbon circular economy (1)

With a clear message that the Mayor wants all diesel vehicles & those who do not adhere to the ULEZ expectations to be banned form the City by 2037, with buses, taxes & other infrastructure vehicles being either electric, hydrogen or low emissions capable; Sadiq Khan’s mission for a cleaner London is expanding fast.

London is not the only city looking to expand the clean air spaces & reduce & or ban cars in the city. Paris & Barcelona are just two of the cities in Europe planning to make their cities car free.


In 2020 Mayor Hidalgo announced grand changes to the Champs-Élysées avenue.  Since 2018, the Champs-Élysées committee has been developing plans for a garden to be built on the 2 km promenade between the Arc de Triomphe & Concorde.

Despite the fact that the French call it “the most beautiful avenue in the world”, the grand avenue now resembles more of a highway, with tens of thousands of cars passing by each day. (2)

The planned garden is set to reduce traffic by up to 72% & in doing so dramatically reduce the CO2 emissions in the Capital.


The City of Barcelona is currently battling with excessive noise & air pollution. The idea of integrating what is known as superblocks – mini neighbourhoods around which traffic will flow, and in which spaces will be repurposed.

The proposed idea formulated by BCNecologia, an agency led by Salvador Rueda, Director of Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona; claims that the extension of the current superblock scheme would reduce ambient levels of NO2 by 24%, from the current level of 47 micrograms per cubic metre to 36 micrograms per cubic metre. (4)

A decrease on that scale would bring Barcelona’s NO2 levels into line with the WHO recommendation of a maximum of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. (4)

Superblocks will be complemented by the introduction of 300km of new cycling lanes (there are currently around 100km), as well as an orthogonal bus network that has already been put in place, whereby buses only navigate a series of main thoroughfares. (4)

Written by Katy Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2