Many scooterists will know Spanish Lambretta aficionado, Jaime Supereibar – or at least be aware of him online. He’s pictured here on his wedding day in Barcelona, accompanied by a Lambretta Series One. If he was to get married now his photos wouldn’t look quite the same. They’d have to be accompanied by a plastic electric sharing scooter. Sadly, since September 15th many older scooters have been banned from the city he lives in.
At ScooterLab we’ve written many stories about cities across the world slowly culling our chosen mode of transport. Often despite them having long since negated their carbon footprint. A 60-year-old scooter has saved, months or possibly years of traffic jam sitting, its metal body is still largely as it was when it rolled off the production line many decades ago and it still has years ahead of it. Scrapping classic machines to replace them with disposable electric ones can’t really be a good or sustainable way to save the planet. Here’s Jaime’s look at the Spanish Low Emissions Zone and how it’s affecting him.
The ZBE or “Zona de Bajas Emisiones” (Low Emissions Zone in English), is an area of the city of Barcelona and its vicinities, which is restricted to some vehicles that do not comply with EU emissions regulations; and it covers one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe that are restricted to traffic, with a whopping 95kms2. Let’s have a closer look at it.
In November of 2016, the DGT or Dirección General de Tráfico (the Spanish version of the UK’s DVLA), sent emissions stickers (here known as “distintivo medioambiental”) to nearly 4.3 million vehicles in the biggest cities in Spain, such as Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia and Bilbao. The emissions sticker was basically a decal which determines compliance, or non-compliance with EU regulations (Euro 2, Euro 3, Euro 4, electric, hybrid etc…). Four decals were issued which were “B”, “C” “ECO” and “0”. To summarize them quickly, the first two attained vehicles running on either full petrol, or diesel cars which comply with most of the EU regulations up to Euro 6. “ECO” were mostly all hybrid vehicles and finally “0” as their name says, all-electric vehicles.
So what happened with all the remaining vehicles? All vehicles presenting no sticker at all, which were those running on regular petrol with a date of manufacture that was prior to the year 2000, or those vehicles running on diesel, manufactured prior to the year 2004; were considered “polluting” and did not get the benefit of having an emissions decal. To contextualize, let’s say that the same person had a Lambretta GP200 from 1997 and a Vespa P200 from 2007. The first one would not have an emissions sticker, but the second one would, since it was manufactured after the year 2000, and it had a catalyzer… Yes, I know, tough luck if you are a Lambretta nut like myself!
So, now that we know all about the rules and regulations, the million-dollar question would be:
Could a vehicle that does not comply with the emissions requirements be modified, and equipped with the latest technology available on the market, to make it more eco-friendly? The answer is no.
How about converting an old vehicle to electric?
The DGT made all the red tape, in order to classify each vehicle but at the same time, it presented all the possible hurdles in order to not change a thing. This said, the most frustrating thing, is that the “ECO” sticker doesn’t really mean that the vehicle is really ecofriendly. It simply implies that it has some component which works on electricity at some point. For instance, an Aston Martin V12 Valkyrie, has an extra electric Rimac engine, and just for this reason, it would get an “ECO” decal. Even if the car’s level of emissions surpasses by far those of a Citroën Saxo from 1998, the Citroën wouldn’t even make it to the “B” decal. The Citroën is old, the Valkyrie is new. Do you get where this is leading to?
So now that the vehicles were perfectly classified by an emissions sticker, a golden opportunity was served for the recently elected mayor, Ada Colau and her political party “En Comú Podem”. The emissions sticker was used by this party to back up their extreme propaganda in which the “older high polluting” vehicles, were responsible for causing the yearly “mass murdering” of hundreds of people by their emissions. They claimed that the creation of a restricted area within the metropolitan area of Barcelona and the neighboring cities was more than necessary; and to put it into practice, a draconian system of fines for those who broke into the city without an emission sticker; was presented as well.
However, no real proof of this so called “mass murdering by the dirty oldies” was ever presented; and the studies shown by “En Comú Podem” to make people believe their arguments, were as legit as Maradona’s goal scored with his hand, against England in 1986.
By 2017, Colau’s party, officially presented the ZBE and clearly defined its limits. The ZBE would start sharp in January of 2020, and it would forbid the entrance to the undesired “oldies” from 7 am until 8 pm, leaving free circulation only on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Those who would break the rules would receive fines that would range from 100€ to 3000€.
No sticker, no entry
However, the measures included a rather humiliating “kind” gesture towards the “oldies” as these vehicles would have an allowance of 10 days a year for exceptional travel, maintenance or other personal matter; at a cost of 2€ per day. But the ambitious project extended further, unveiling the “Comuns” real plan to eliminate the older motor vehicles from Barcelona for good. The mayor already relied on the fact that vehicles could not get a different decal other than the one they have (if they were entitled to one), so that was enough to guarantee that a car without a decal was doomed. As if this was not enough, she promised that the “oldies” would get higher taxes, whilst the electric vehicles would receive a reduction of 75% of the total amount due. Finally, the best measure of all came to light, when it was announced that in 2025, circulation for the “oldies” would be banned 24/7 within the ZBE, thus making Ada Colau the official executioner of all the historic vehicles within the metropolitan area of Barcelona.
By the year 2019, a perfect scenario was drawn for the ZBE to take place in the following year. A young Suede by the name of Greta Thunberg appeared in the public eye, giving dramatic speeches and blaming fossil fuels, and the politicians; for “stealing her childhood”. At this point, the entire western civilization, except for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, fell to their knees praising the young child’s actions. At that time every politician in Spain turned their backs on fossil fuels, and claimed to have embraced the new green era that was about to unfold. This said, when the ZBE is voted in Barcelona’s town hall; no politician would have the courage to have the finger pointed at. So even if the measures that the ZBE suggested were out of proportion, they finally get approved unanimously in the town hall.
Some of the users of these unwanted “oldies” happened to be people of very low incomes, which in some cases had no other choice than to keep their older vehicles because it’s all they could afford, and also because they woke up at 3 am every day, and had to go to work at an industrial park outside of Barcelona. The commute to work was no problem for them, but when they finished their journey, they couldn’t return to their homes before 8 pm. Another scenario was the case of the classic vehicles, which are maintained and cared for, by a collector or an aficionado which happened to work at a job that has no free weekends, but sporadic days in between the week instead; such as a cook or a waiter. In both cases, one would think that caring for the health of our planet should be their priority, and it is absolutely true. However, this didn’t take into account that older vehicles have been used for decades and their carbon print is more than paid for. These vehicles also might have another several decades of life left, so one must be blind not to find a certain level of ecology on keeping them “alive and kicking”; thus saving the production of newer vehicles.
Did I say “newer vehicles”? Yes. It took hardly no time, for the sidewalks of the city of Barcelona to appear literally infested by electric rental scooters (about 7000 declared by the local press) all controlled by different local companies; such as Acciona, eCooltra, YEGO, and others. The mentioned companies got exceptional permits as they had a drastic tax reduction (being zero emissions) so benefits were very high. At certain urban areas the population of these electric scooters was so high in number, that they made it virtually impossible to find a parking spot for your private two-wheel ride. Presently the mayor is campaigning in favour of these companies and has created propaganda all over the streets encouraging the use of motosharing (and discouraging the use of private vehicles).
Just about the same time that the ZBE was proposed, an activist group by the name of P.A.R.C (a platform of those affected by traffic restrictions) showed up and tried desperately to create some reactions from those who are affected by these unfair measures. P.A.R.C organised marches; meetings and demonstrations. People from very different backgrounds, ages and political orientation joined P.A.R.C, and months before the ZBE was applied, several members tried to communicate their view to the local TV and journals, by explaining that there are ways to make older vehicles comply with the emissions requirements; but the mayor never listened. The local media was and still is totally biased, and would refer to the “oldies” as the “high polluting vehicles”. P.A.R.C also presented a study which states the highest polluting levels of CO2, came actually out of Barcelona’s industrial port, but their report was blatantly ignored. P.A.R.C also unveiled a scandal, involving the mayor and two of her associates, with an incinerator plant within the ZBE that showed extreme levels of pollution. The report, was unheard, and systematically ignored by the local press.
The first day of the ZBE officially started on the 1st of January of 2020 but the ban was not made effective, as the fines were not to be applied until the 1st of April 2020. By March of 2020 COVID-19 shook the entire planet, and the mayor decided to postpone the application of fines until the 15th of September 2020. Finally, the dreaded date arrived, and the inflexible political agenda held by the party “En Comú Podem” (the local branch of the Spanish Communist party “Podemos”) did not consider to even listen to the thousands of families affected by the ZBE, and proceeded with the application of the fines to those not complying with the ban.
4th October Barcelona
On October 4th there’s a big anti-ZBE demo in Barcelona, unfortunately, these demonstrations don’t gain much public support.
The present situation is very hopeless. P.A.R.C managed to file a law suit against the ZBE, proving it being anti-constitutional. So there are hopes for the constitutional court to take place, and to fail in our favor; but seeing how things have followed suit, our spirits remain a bit low. This said, my view, and the view of every aficionado that resists to sell or destroy their vehicle in this city; is that it is imperative that everybody in Europe stands and fights together. We are like a terrorised fox which runs away from the hunting dog. A hunting dog that only obeys to the political agenda of these blind new eco-terrorists, moved only by bigotry, and hate.
Words and photos: Jaime Supereibar
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