What are urban access regulations?
Some cities and towns have regulations for vehicles going into their area to improve issues such as air quality, congestion or how people experience the city, see more below. This can be by for example:
- charging for access to road space (urban road tolls)
- do not allow dirty vehicles to go into the city (low emission zones)
- or by other types of regulation. These other types of regulation we call key Access Regulation Schemes (key-ARS).
To make it more clear for you, we list these under the different types of urban access regulation schemes.
Key Access Regulation Schemes (Key-ARS) are where access to the urban area is regulated by other methods than payment or emissions.
It might be where - a permit is required to drive into an area,
- access is only allowed at certain times of the day
- all but certain vehicles or trips are banned.
These are also known as Traffic Restrictions, Access Restrictions, Permit Schemes or in Italy ZTLs. They can be enforced by cameras, physical barriers, police or local authority officers.
For an overview of key Access Regulations see our overview of key Access Regulations. All key Urban Access Regulation Schemes are in the list below. You can also search under countries, the Quick Guide, the map, or the list below. If there is no key-ARS in the city you are searching, then check in the Quick Guide for physical regulations, as they may have some regulations there.
Physical Traffic Restrictions where access is regulated simply by a sign restricting vehicle access (), weight (), height (), width (), length () or weight per axel (). This category is used for traffic restrictions that are implemented simply by a road sign on the road, with little additional information. There may be some Major Access Regulation Schemes included in these schemes, but we will include them under Major Access Regulation Schemes over time.
There are around 8000 cities and towns in Europe with such traffic restrictions on our database. This is too many to put on our menu system. The physical ARS can therefore be best found from our Quick Guide or the "Find cities with schemes" table on the homepage. Click on the city name from these tables and you will come to the map with details. The physical traffic restrictions are shown as polygons on a fully zoomable and navigable map, see below. The map shows the area of the restriction, weight or height restricted, and if they are part or full time. You need to be zoomed into the city to see the physical restrictions. You can turn the different schemes on and off the map with the logos above. Below is an example of the information on restrictions for London. Click on the map below to go to the map, then zoom in and turn on the restrictions.
Why Access Regulations?
Many cities and towns struggle with the balance of congestion, ‘liveability’, air pollution, noise levels, accessibility, damage to historic buildings and other pressures of urban life. Many cities have levels of pollution that adversely affect health. Congested, polluted, noisy cities are not attractive for businesses or residents.
Air pollution is responsible for 310 000 premature deaths in Europe each yeari. This is more deaths than caused by road accidentsii. The human health damage from air pollution is estimated to cost the European economy between €427 and €790 billion per yeariii. For more information, see our why low emission zones page.
Congested, polluted, noisy cities are not attractive for businesses or residents. Congestion also has a significant impact on the economy, costing nearly €100 billion, or 1% of the EU's GDP, annuallyvi. The different types of Urban Access Regulations can reduce traffic and congestion in a city, and ensure that those that need to travel with a vehicle - for example deliveries - can travel rather than sitting in a traffic jam.
Traffic incidents caused 39000 fatalities in the EU in 2008. 23% of fatal accidents in built-up areas affected people under the age of 25. Less traffic and well planned streets in urban areas can lead to fewer accidents. vii
Attractiveness to Tourists, those visiting and bringing money into the cities do not want to see traffic jams or rows of tour buses. This is particularly the case for many Italian cities, with Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZTL)
Noise contributes to at least 10 000 cases of premature mortality each yearviii and noise from road and rail traffic is estimated to cost the EU €40 billion per yearix. Almost 90% of the health impact caused by noise exposure is associated with road traffic noisex.
Types of Access Regulation
There are many ways to try to tackle these issues, and regulating the vehicles or trips that access parts of the town is one. The most simple type of Access Regulation is a pedestrian zone, which can very much improve the attractiveness of a tourist attraction or shopping centre. Our website does not generally include pedestrian zones, as they occur in almost every town, and those who need to deliver to the shops have contact with the shops and so know about the scheme. Some pedestrian zones are included under physical restrictions and we include some of the larger schemes under key ARS.
Access regulations can be by vehicle type (eg car or lorry), vehicle weight (eg over 3.5 tonnes), by type of trip (eg delivery), by driver (eg residents or access), or for all vehicles. Our access regulations overview can help say what cities have what type of regulation
Generally Access Regulations balance the need of vehicles to access an area, with a reduction in the number of vehicles entering the area. For example, encourages commuters to travel by public transport, cycle or foot.
Physical Access Restrictions are also often in place when a road is too narrow or bridge not strong enough for certain vehicles. These are covered under physical traffic restrictions on our website. Physical traffic restrictions also include many pedestrian zones and where lorries are only allowed to travel through towns and villages for deliveries or access. These last two types of schemes are very common, and it might be that our database does not include them all. If you are driving a heavy duty vehicle, you will be aware that you are often not allowed to drive through many cities, towns or villages, and the major roads around the towns should be used with preference.