LIFE CityTRAQ aims to improve city living through cleaner air

LIFE CityTRAQ aims to improve city living through cleaner air

‘Stopping pollution is a matter of direct democracy,’ says Christophe Stroobants, Integrated Projects and Modelling Air Quality team leader at the Flanders Environment Agency. ‘Change is possible, and policies are more effective if people are involved and we all change our behaviours and mindset.’

Based in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region of Belgium, LIFE CityTRAQ supports local administrators. The project uses tools to measure and analyse air quality and involve citizens in creating plans and initiatives to reduce pollution.

Partner cities Ghent, Antwerp, and Bruges are deploying additional air quality and traffic sensors to gather more local data on pollution hot spots and the effectiveness of their actions. RIVM – the Dutch National Institute for Public Health – partner of LIFE CityTRAQ, will support them in achieving better results.
Over the next few months, in partnership with the cities, the Flanders Environment Agency will release the so-called ‘screening and scenario’ tools enhancing data-driven local policy making – and work has already begun to tackle pollution in the three cities using existing data.

In Ghent, for example, the local administration has introduced for many years schoolstraten (school streets closed to traffic during peak hours) to improve the air quality in areas where children – who are among the most vulnerable to air pollution – spend most of their time. LIFE CityTRAQ will contribute to turning more streets into temporary pedestrian streets.

‘What it is changing,’ adds Christophe, ‘is that we are moving from assessing the best choices using multiple complicated spreadsheets to pinpointing hotspots in one afternoon thanks to the map-based tools we are developing with LIFE CityTRAQ.’

With just a few clicks, the tools already show different sources of pollution, including traffic, industry, agriculture and households – allowing decision-makers and residents to agree on new city plans and traffic changes jointly.

LIFE CityTRAQ is closely related to the Horizon 2020COMPAIR project. The project combined citizen science with volunteer residents. The residents placed sensors across European cities to raise awareness of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), like black carbon or soot.
The SLCPS are one of the greatest threats to clean air and the health of those living in urban areas.

Many Europeans are already transforming their cities by reducing car journeys and increasing their use of bikes and public transport. The Croatian capital, Zagreb – which, through the Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Service, is a partner to LIFE CityTRAQ – is starting to replicate the decision-making model adopted in many Belgian cities.

Cooperation between citizens and local authorities, together with the tools and good practices of LIFE CityTRAQ, are creating better, cleaner urban communities, helping to reduce air pollution in the EU by 2030.