Air pollution decreased by almost 90% in Brussels on car free Sunday

Sunday 18 September marks Brussels’ annual Car Free Sunday, when all roads in the capital region are closed to motorized traffic. On that day, air pollution across the city dropped significantly, by up to 90%, according to Brussels Environment.

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From 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. it was completely closed to traffic with very few exceptions. Public transport, taxis, coaches, emergency services, disabled people with ID or those with special permission, diplomatic corps and public utility vehicles were still allowed on the streets, but with a maximum speed of 30 km/h.

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The day after, Brussels Environment, the environment and energy agency for residents and businesses in the Brussels-Capital region, published a report on the impact of the car-free Sunday on the city’s air quality and healthy environment.

Hardly any cars on the streets of the Brussels region, but plenty of bicycles, scooters and inline skates: the car-free day has once again changed the face of the capital for a day.

Brussels area

The results showed that nitric oxide (NO) was 53 to 80% on average% lower compared to other Sundays and 70% to 90% lower compared to a weekday. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) was 74% to 80% lower compared to other Sundays and 81% to 86% lower compared to a weekday. Finally, soot (BC) was 69% to 74% lower compared to other Sundays and 74% to 79% lower compared to a weekday.

The difference was most noticeable in the normally busy areas, such as outside the Arts-Loi metro station, where two of the city’s main thoroughfares intersect. The concentrations of NO and NO2 were 80% lower compared to another Sunday and 90% and 86% lower respectively compared to a weekday.

This day is an opportunity to highlight the importance of pollutants emitted by road traffic and the impact of the lack of motorized vehicles on air quality and noise. The challenge is immense.

Brussels area

Regarding the sound environment, a sharp decrease in background noise levels was noted at the various measuring stations near roads. Compared to the Sunday before the event, there were significant declines.

For stations near motorways, along the E411 in Auderghem and near the E40 in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, the differences were “very significant”: more than 10 dB with a 90% reduction in sound pressure. At the stations on Avenue Houba de Strooper in Brussels and Chaussée de Wavre in Auderghem, the differences were significant: greater than 5 dB, with a 68% reduction in background noise.

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