Hello Europe Podcast Podcast
World car-free day struggles to find public in Poland
September 22 is World Car Free Day. Around the world, people, especially big cities, are called to store their vehicles in the garage and to borrow their bikes or public transport. The goal is to change the minds of motorists but also to breathe better. But there is one country in which this may be very difficult, it is Poland.
In Poland, we should be able to breathe better today. And for good reason, 33 of the 50 most polluted European cities are located in the Polish state. Smog alerts, this cloud of pollution are very common.
This is obviously due to coal. Indeed, the vast majority of Poles continue to warm with it. But behind, the second source of pollution is transportation, the exhaust of millions of individual vehicles.
In Warsaw, for example, cars are responsible for 60% of the pollution. And the capital has nearly 700 vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, more than twice as much as in Berlin or New York.
An almost powerless government
The city of Krakow has nearly 800,000 inhabitants. Due to its industries, high traffic density and topography, Krakow is surrounded by small hills. The air of the city is particularly suffocating, especially in winter.
So the mayor is trying to reduce the passage of cars. She is currently experimenting with a no-go zone for the most polluting vehicles. Warsaw, for its part, has lowered the price of public transport subscriptions for suburban residents. Finally, bike paths and electric vehicles are slowly developing in the big cities.
But where the expectations are many, it is on the car market directly. In 2018, nearly one million used vehicles arrived in Poland. And among them, half were diesel cars, cheap, but more polluting, and often without particulate filters.
Initiatives that are not to everyone's taste
There are obviously satisfied people, those who live in the heart of these polluted cities and hope to see an improvement in air quality.
But a majority of Poles remain very attached to his vehicle, often for lack of alternative. In the suburbs of Warsaw, Krakow or Lódz, the three largest cities in the country, many municipalities are not served by trains. In the countryside, bus lines have been phased out. Even though recently, the ruling party, Law and Justice, promised before the European elections to revive many local lines.
Then, the metropolises, especially Warsaw, were built for cars. The capital is crossed by wide avenues, peripherals and highways have been financed in recent years thanks to European funds.
Finally, in a country that has known communism, the car is, according to several polls, a symbol of freedom and wealth. It is also politically risky to restrict the freedom of motorists ...