What you need to know about Barcelona’s traffic restrictions

What you need to know about Barcelona's traffic restrictions
Photo: AMB/ Cat
Polluting cars have been banned from the centre of Barcelona and drivers could now face a fine of up to €500.

From September 15th Barcelona started issuing fines to the most polluting vehicles that enter its 95 km2 Low Emissions Zone (ZBE, or zona de bajas emisiones, in Spanish), after delaying the measure due to COVID-19.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is the ZBE?

The Low Emissions Zone (ZBE, in Spanish) is a 95 km2 area that covers all of Barcelona between the Ronda de Dalt and the Ronda del Litoral, as well as all or part of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Cornellà de Llobregat, Esplugues de Llobregat and Sant Adrià de Besòs. 

In Barcelona city, the neighborhoods of Vallvidrera, Tibidabo, Les Planes, and Zona Franca are excluded from the ZBE. 

High-pollution vehicles are now prohibited from entering the ZBE, and violators will be fined. According to Barcelona’s transport authority the ATM (Autoritat Metropolitana del Transport), the measure will keep 50.000 of the most polluting vehicles off the city’s streets. 

Which vehicles are affected?

The ZBE restrictions apply to petrol vehicles registered before 2000 and diesel vehicles registered before 2006, as well as motorcycles and mopeds registered before 2003. 

Depending on their level of pollution, vehicles will receive one of four environmental badges: zero emissions, eco, C, or B from the DGT (Directorate-General of Traffic). The most polluting vehicles (those that cannot circulate in the ZBE) will receive no badge. 

Are there exceptions?

Yes. Emergency vehicles like ambulances and police cars are permanently exempt, as well as vehicles for people with reduced mobility. 

Owners of personal-use vehicles that don’t qualify to enter the ZBE can request up to 10 yearly day passes. 

Vans, lorries, and buses will also be gradually affected, but have been given a longer grace period due to the higher cost of replacing larger vehicles. Restrictions will begin applying to them between April 1, 2021, and January 1, 2022. 

Photo: Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB), AFP


Timing and Time Restrictions

The ZBE traffic restrictions are in effect from weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The ZBE was officially established on January 1, 2020, with sanctions for infractions scheduled to begin on April 1. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sanctions and fines were delayed until September 15. 

How much are the fines? 

Fines vary between 100 and 500 euros, based on the infraction and the type of vehicle. 

How can I get the badge?

Environmental badges can be purchased and collected at post offices. If your vehicle is registered in Spain, you can check your vehicle’s environmental badge here. Using the badge is voluntary, but municipalities can limit your vehicle’s circulation based on its badge. The badge costs 5€. 

What about vehicles with foreign registration? 

The same restrictions apply. But foreign-registered vehicles will not be able to obtain a badge from the DGT. If your car comes from a country with its own environmental classification (Germany, Austria, Denmark, France), you can use your badge from that country to circulate in the ZBE. You can see the equivalencies by country here and find out what restrictions affect you. 

If your car is registered in a country that does not have an environmental classification, you will need to register your vehicle with the Metropolitan Register of Foreign Vehicles, which you can do here

Why create a low emissions zone?

The ZBE was designed to reduce air pollution in Barcelona, which is well above EU quality standards and causes over 350 premature deaths each year, according to the Barcelona Public Health Agency. 

Residents willing to take their high-polluting vehicle to the scrapyard and commit to not buying a new one for at least three years qualify for a free 3-year transit card, the T-verde (T-verda in Catalan). 

By Sam Harrison in Barcelona



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