The lowdown: What’s happening in Bristol?
Nitrogen dioxide levels in Bristol have risen above the legal health limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter, with some towns reaching levels of 16.6 micrograms per cubic meter. To protect the health of its residents, the elderly and the most vulnerable, Bristol City Council announced the implementation of a Clean Air Zone bordered around its most polluting regions.
But how do Bristolians feel about the Bristol Clean Air Zone? Are they for or against it, and how will this impact the way they travel? We went to Bristol to find out!
The public is divided
Currently, around 70% of vehicles travelling into the zone comply with emission standards. The remaining 30% will need to pay a daily £9 fee, and the consequence of non-payment – a hefty £120 fine.
We spoke to Kate who lives just outside the city centre, she said:
“I’m totally for the Clean Air Zone, however, I think the shape of it is ludicrous. There are lots of inner-city residential areas that are not covered by the zone. Parts along the Portway that lead out of Bristol are within the zone. How does that make sense?”
Kate wasn’t the only resident we spoke to who voiced this opinion. Residents understand why there are cameras along the route heading into Bristol, but if the point of the Clean Air Zone is to reduce emissions within the city, the confusion lies in why there are also CAZ cameras along the route going out of Bristol.
This concern was addressed by city Mayor Marvin Rees, who said: “Taking the Portway out, it’s not just about what it does to traffic flow on the Portway, it’s the role the Portway plays in encouraging behavioural change and the change of vehicles within the overall city fleet, both private vehicles and commercial vehicles, and that’s part of what the modelling takes into account.”
Looking at the current Bristol Clean Air Zone map and its placement, nitrogen dioxide levels are estimated to reduce to the city’s legal limits by 2023. If the council had to remove Portway from the zone, it would take a year longer to achieve this.
Some residents also believe that traffic along other popular commute routes will worsen as people find alternative routes to avoid the £9 fee.
“People will use even more fuel to drive around the CAZ causing further congestion and more emissions.” – James, student at the University of Bristol.
Many were for the Bristol Clean Air Zone too, stating that it is the right way forward to keep the city’s air clean. Jan, a health care worker living just outside the zone said:
“There’re just so many cars on the roads these days, increasing pollution and making our city smoky. Anything that can be done to stop this is always a good thing. We must think carefully about our kids and the generations to come.”
Approximately 5 people die in Bristol every week due to toxic air pollution, those most vulnerable include children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. The zone will protect such residents by reducing particulate matter concentrations and, therefore, reduce the number of premature deaths caused by pollution.
When asking residents if they would typically drive into town, Kelly, mum of four said:
“I used to drive into town because the bus services are terrible, the drivers are always late. Plus, if my husband, kids, and I had to travel by bus, it would work out to be quite expensive.”
Another common sentiment shared amongst other residents. Bristol has one of the UK’s most underused public transport services, and most residents blame this on overcrowding and overpricing.
Mayor Rees has acknowledged this and promised that public transport plans are in place to improve bus infrastructure.
“We’re continuing to make transport in Bristol more environmentally sustainable to support people to switch to cleaner ways of travelling. We’re working with First Bus to introduce biogas-powered buses, which cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%”
When asked how Kelly plans to drive to the city centre once the zone is live, she said:
“We can’t afford to buy an electric vehicle large enough for our family, it would be like buying a house. I will just reduce my visits to the city centre, avoiding the CAZ where I can. My biggest hope from all of this is that it speeds up the process of adding additional bus routes that we can use as a greener alternative.”
Concerns were also raised for elderly and vulnerable people, those who the zone is thought to help protect. Residents were confused by all the temporary exemptions, and many felt like there aren’t enough in place to support those who need it most.
“I read that the exemption for Blue Badge Holders won’t last very long. Most of these are people with disabilities and can’t afford to buy a new car that complies. I am in favour of the Clean Air Zone, but only if the right support is available. Making such exemptions permanent won’t have a huge impact on the general effectiveness of the scheme.” – Ian, retired professional living within the CAZ.
Vehicles that are nationally exempt do not need to apply for an exemption. In addition to national exemptions, Bristol Council announced a list of temporary exemptions that will expire on March 31, 2023. These exemptions were originally due to expire at the end of 2022, however were extended in order to give residents more time to prepare.
“We need to reduce harmful pollution in the city and reach the legal limits set by government in the shortest time possible, but we also want to give those who need it a bit more time to prepare. That could mean upgrading or changing a vehicle or trying out different and more sustainable ways to travel instead.” – Mayor Rees
You can view a full list of Bristol Clean Air Zone exemptions here. If your vehicle falls under any of these categories, you will need to apply for a temporary exemption via the Bristol City Council website. There have been no further announcements on whether you will need to apply for exemption again after March 31, 2023.
Jerry who runs a business in Bath said:
“I run a warehousing business in Bath and come to Bristol often because my son studies here. I’m already being stung by the Clean Air Zone charges in Bath, and now I can’t drive down and visit my son as easily either.”
Introduced in March 2021, the Bath Clean Air Zone has successfully lowered levels of nitrogen dioxide by 21%. However, business owners in Bath making frequent commutes into Bristol will be hit twice as hard.
Find out all you need to know about the Bath Clean Air Zone here.
How can Caura help?
We can’t help you avoid the CAZ, but we can help you avoid the £120 Penalty Charge Notice!
Caura is the fastest way to pay for emission charges and being able to pay quickly means you’re less likely to forget paying the charge!
Available on the App store and Google Play store, download Caura for free, check if you’re exempt from any Clean Air Zone charges, or pay the charge in two taps. Plus, all transaction receipts are stored in-app, ready for you whenever you need them
If you know friends in Bristol likely to be impacted by the upcoming CAZ, refer them to Caura and you’ll both get £50 off your next insurance renewal too!