An app is hoping to make driving round Europe frictionless for travellers by showing them which parts of the continent are subject to restrictions on vehicles aimed at reducing air pollution.
Green-Zones, which has been downloaded 20,000 times since is launched in July 2017, collates information on all the zones across Western Europe – including what times they are enforced.
It allows users to read entry rights and restrictions and get hold of the correct sticker or badge needed to drive past certain check points. If you enter your hotel’s address, it will tell you if it’s in a restricted zone.
“More and more environmental zones have appeared across Europe,” said public relations officer Aenne Ramm. “And we saw that people making longer journeys or travelling through these countries could not get all the information before leaving home.”
Restrictions are in place in a number of French cities, including capital Paris, Lille, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Lyon, as well as in other European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Austria and Denmark.
But the countries each have individual approaches, with different badges needed to access the environmental zones – which each have different timetables of when they are enforced and target different vehicles.
Ramm explained, for example, that Switzerland is considering introducing the French badge in primarily French-speaking cities while Czechia, formerly the Czech Republic, is looking to introduce a badge but accept the existing German badge as well. Some Austrian cities only restrict trucks.
“It’s not like Schengen,” added Ramm. “Each country has its individual rules.”
She said that’s the benefit of Green-Zones, which collates all the information and makes it easy for drivers to check – on the move – whether they need a sticker or badge to get in to a certain area to avoid hefty penalties.
“This information is there,” Ramm said. “But, in France, it’s given to just the French media or communicated in French. So, for people who don’t speak French, it’s difficult to monitor. It’s quite hard with all the different organisations. Many people ask why there isn’t one badge to cover the European Union.”
The app is available in five languages – English, German, French, Spanish and Polish.
As well as tourists travelling through the countries on self-drive holidays, the app is also aimed at those living close to borders, like Germans who might travel to Strasbourg for a day trip or evening.
“Before we launched the app, we knew lots of people would travel to these zones and not know they were doing anything wrong,” Ramm added. “And politicians knew that it’s not the most popular idea, so they didn’t say a lot.”
Ramm said that Green-Zones is very much in favour of the zones but believes they will only get public support if they are communicated clearly.
Even the app has “room for improvement”, she said. So founder Michael Kroehnert has signed off plans to refresh the app in time for summer 2018 – with plans for a new layout and a section where users can buy badges for all the countries at the same time.
So while the European is busy dealing with Brexit leaving issues like a continent wide network of environmental zones near the bottom of the list of priorities, Green-Zones is there to simplify it for you.