Cars With Studded Tires Pollute 40 Times More

smog

Studded tires are a major factor in particulate pollution, RÚV reports. Þorsteinn Jóhansson, an expert at the Environment Agency of Iceland, presented the data in an open meeting today on the impact of studded tires on air quality and road surfaces.

“A car with studded tires wears down [the road] many times over compared to a car without studded tires. That is 20-40 times more. That is not 20-40% more, rather at least 2000% more,” Þorsteinn stated. High levels of particulate pollution occur regularly in Reykjavík in the spring, when the weather is still, road surfaces are dry, and drivers have not yet switched over to summer tires.

While Þorsteinn stated that it is clearly in the interest of those responsible for road maintenance to reduce the use of studded tires, he admitted that the need for such tires varies. “Especially people who live out in the countryside or people who are driving from Selfoss over Hellisheiði. There will certainly be days when it is better to be on studded tires, such as when there is wet ice, then studded tires have the advantage.”

He pointed out that in Norway, a studded tire tax has been imposed to reduce their negative impact. “Studded tires are not banned anywhere in Norway, but there are fees in certain towns, so it is each municipality that decides and there has been an economic incentive to reduce the use of studded tires.” Those who live in the countryside and drive into Oslo can buy a studded tire “passport,” which can be an annual, monthly, or daily pass. Þorsteinn believes such a system could work in Iceland.

“If there is permission to charge, it would certainly only be municipalities in the capital area that would use it. Residents of Ísafjörður would never impose a fee for studded tires.”

Bus Travel is Free in Reykjavík Today

Public bus in Reykjavík

Reykjavík’s public bus service Strætó is offering free trips on its buses today in an effort to reduce pollution. Riders can access a free day pass using the Strætó app (under the “My Tickets” tab). High levels of particulate pollution are expected in Reykjavík in the coming days.

“There is a big chance of air pollution exceeding health limits today,” reads a notice on Strætó’s website. Particulate pollution is often highest in Reykjavík during spring due to a combination of dry weather conditions and studded tires, among other factors. Strætó’s initiative is a pilot project intended to encourage Reykjavík residents to reduce pollution by leaving cars at home.

Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson, managing director of Strætó told RÚV it is undecided whether the initiative will be repeated. “It costs Strætó a considerable amount of money if it goes well, so we just have to evaluate it with our owners,” he stated. Jóhannes estimates today’s free trips could cost the company around ISK 3 million ($25,000/€22,500).

The City of Reykjavík aims to dust bind all major streets today and tomorrow to further reduce the likelihood of high pollution levels. Car owners are encouraged to swap out their studded tires as their use is banned after April 15.