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Guest Article: Lubomira Wengler, Project Manager, the Polish Society for Health Programs

Air pollution in Poland’s largest cities reaches the highest levels in the entire European Union.  The main “culprits”  of this situation are low-stack emissions  (emissions from individual heating installations burning solid fuels) and road transport.

The Polish Society for Health Programs (“PTPZ”) has just published the new report which explains what 31 Polish largest cities are doing to reduce health-harmful transport emissions and can help to answer the question whether these measures are sufficient to reach the goal.

PTPZ requested the 50 largest Polish cities to complete the survey with 16 questions. 31 of them responded. The report was elaborated by Daria Mirosławska on the basis of answers given in the questionnaire without introducing substantive changes.

These are the key findings from the survey:

  • each city has a policy or strategy aimed at preventing and reducing air pollution;
  • in the vast majority of cities (94%), the policies and strategies also include combating pollution generated by road transport.
  • the vast majority (94% of the responses) of the cities answered yes to the question on whether air quality monitoring was being carried out;
  • 7 cities monitor the share of road transport in the generation of polluted air. Five cities plan to introduce this kind of monitoring.
  • significant disparities can be observed in the budget allocated to combatting air pollution in individual cities;
  • for 18 out of the 31 cities (58%) the share of road transport in air pollution is known. Nine cities have no such knowledge. Four cities did not give a clear answer.
  • In 11 of the cities (35%) the effects (including health effects) of polluted air are known. Twelve cities (39%) have no such knowledge, while 8 (26%) did not provide a response. As regards air pollution costs, 6 cities (19%) know the costs incurred, 19 (61%) do not have this knowledge, 8 (26%) do not have information.
  • each of the cities takes steps to reduce car traffic in favour of public transport. The most common approaches include: modernising the public transport fleet (30 replies), developing infrastructure for transport (24 replies), and educational activities (23 replies).
  • Each city has decided to expand their network of bicycle paths to encourage residents to reduce car use. In 23 cities educational activities are carried out with this goal in mind. Nineteen cities have decided to introduce a network of municipal bicycles, and 16 cities to expand such a network.
  • 19 cities (61%) decided to increase the network of pedestrian paths. Such initiatives are intended to encourage the giving up of cars in favour of walking. Seventeen cities (55%) carry out educational activities in this area. Almost half of the cities have decided to introduce a solution that does not so much encourage walking as forces it – 14 cities (45%) introduced automobile-free zones.
  • Almost all cities educate their residents about the causes and health effects of air pollution in its area.
  • Almost every city is for the transition to electromobility (30 out of 31 cities – 97%);-In 21 cities (68%) the public transport fleets include electric vehicles. Eight cities plan to have such a fleet. Some cities do not have sufficient means to introduce electric vehicles into their public transport fleets.
  • Most cities (54%) did not investigate their residents’ expectations in relation to combating air pollution.

Hope for the future? Polish cities are working on road transport pollution. This work, however, requires the improvement of existing solutions, the introduction of new ones, including those based on good cities’ practices, as well as  constant care.

But yes, definitely, there is hope for the future.