This Stockholm street just became the first in Sweden to ban old diesel cars

From today onwards, some cars will no longer be allowed to use one of southern Stockholm's main thoroughfares.

This Stockholm street just became the first in Sweden to ban old diesel cars
Old diesel cars are no longer allowed on Hornsgatan. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Hornsgatan runs from north to west on Stockholm's Södermalm island. It is a busy street lined with shops, bars and restaurants, and one of the quickest ways for drivers to get from Slussen to Liljeholmen.

It is also one of the Swedish capital's most polluted streets, and other measures such as banning studded winter tyres have previously been adopted in order to improve its air quality.

And on January 15th, a ban on old diesel cars comes into force on the street.

It follows a decision by the Swedish government in 2018 to make it possible for local authorities to create so-called environmental zones, and was a key question in the local election in Stockholm the same year.

The scheme was eventually pushed through by the Green Party, who have been ruling in coalition with centre-right parties in Stockholm City Council since the election, with opponents claiming a diesel ban was unnecessary due to the continuing improvement of air quality in the Swedish capital.

The ban means that only newer diesel engines meeting the emission standards of Euro 5 and Euro 6 will be permitted in the zone, and by 2022 only Euro 6 will be allowed. In practice, this bans most cars older than 11 years, but note that the older cars will still be allowed to cross Hornsgatan.

There are already class-one environmental zones for heavy vehicles in place in several Swedish cities (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Mölndal, Uppsala, Helsingborg, Lund and Umeå). But Hornsgatan is the first street in Sweden to introduce a class-two environmental zone for passenger cars.

According to Swedish public broadcaster SVT, around 4,000 of the 24,000 cars that use Hornsgatan every day will now be forced to take a detour. Emergency vehicles are however not affected by the ban.

Alternative routes from Slussen to Liljeholmen or to the E4/E20 motorway through the city are the Söder Mälarstrand street and then Västerbron, alternatively Götgatan or Söderledstunneln south, joining the 75 westbound through Årsta before reaching Liljeholmen or the motorway. In any case, unless you have no other option, public transport is usually more convenient than driving in central Stockholm.

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EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Sweden

Electric scooters or e-scooters are becoming more and more popular in Sweden, but many people still aren't sure what the rules are for driving them. Here's a breakdown.

EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Sweden

Is there an age limit?

There is no legal age limit for riding an e-scooter, known as elsparkcykel (literally, “electric kick bicycle”) in Swedish, although many rental schemes in Sweden are only available to over-18s.

Where can I ride an e-scooter?

E-scooters are legally classed as bicycles if they have a maximum speed of 20km/h and a motor no stronger than 250 watts. If an electric scooter fulfils these requirements, it is subject to the same traffic rules as a bicycle.

This means that e-scooters can be ridden on bike lanes and on roads, if no bike lane is available. You must ride on the right whether you’re on a bike lane or a road.

You cannot ride an e-scooter on a pavement (sidewalk) or pedestrian zone. In a gångfartsområde (“walking-speed area”), you can ride your e-scooter as long as it does not exceed walking speed and as long as you give way to pedestrians. If you ride faster than walking speed, you risk a fine of 1,000 kronor.

The sign for a walking-speed area, where you may cycle or ride a scooter at walking speed. Image: Swedish Transport Agency

In some cases, you can ride an e-scooter on a main road, even if a bike lane is available. You must be over the age of 15 and the road in question must have a speed limit of 50km/h or less. It also has to be “more appropriate with regard to the location of the destination” to ride on the road rather than using the bike lane.

Children under the age of eight years old are technically allowed to ride on the pavement if no bike lane is available, although in practice you’re unlikely to see children this young using e-scooters anyway, as many rental services are only available to adults.

You also can’t ride an e-scooter on a motorway. Not only is it extremely dangerous, but you risk a 2,000 kronor fine if you do so.

Do I need a helmet?

There is no legal requirement for people over the age of 15 to wear a helmet when riding an e-scooter. Many rental schemes recommend that users wear a helmet anyway, even if they are aged over 15.

Only one person per e-scooter, otherwise you and your passenger each risk a 500 kronor fine. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Can more than one person ride an e-scooter?

No, and you and any passengers risk a 500 kronor fine each if you do so, as well as a five-year criminal record.

Do I need lights?

If riding in the dark, your e-scooter must be equipped with lights at the front and back as well as reflectors on the front, back and sides. If renting a scooter, make sure you check it meets the requirements if you’re likely to be using it in the dark.

Riding an e-scooter in the dark without lights can cost you a 500 kronor fine, and another 500 kronor fine if you don’t have reflectors.

In addition to this, e-scooters must have brakes and a bell, although there’s no set rules for what the bell should look like or what sound it should make. If your e-scooter’s doesn’t have functioning brakes or you don’t have a bell, you’re liable for a 500 kronor fine – 1,000 kronor if you have neither.

Is there an alcohol limit for e-scooters?

There’s no specific legal limit for alcohol use, although that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to ride drunk.

According to traffic legislation, you cannot use any kind of vehicle (including an e-scooter) if you “due to illness, tiredness, the effect of alcohol, other stimulants or depressants or for other reasons are unable to operate the vehicle in a safe manner”.

If you ride an e-scooter drunk and end up injuring someone else, you risk a fine, a prison sentence, or even the loss of your driving licence, depending on how serious the accident is.

Where can you park them?

E-scooters must be not be parked anywhere where they cause an obstacle for others – this means no parking on bike lanes or roads unless there is a specific parking area for e-scooters or bicycles, or anywhere where they could get in the way of pedestrians or people with mobility issues.

Malmö city council’s collection depot for illegally-parked electric scooters. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Scooters should also be parked upright and as neatly as possible, and should not block entrances to garages, pedestrian crossings, bus stops, train stations, shops or similar.

They may be parked in bike parking areas or in special areas marked for e-scooter parking. Many e-scooter rental services have parking areas located on their in-app maps.

You cannot park them on a gångbana, a pedestrian walkway marked with the following sign:

The sign for a ‘gångbana’ or pedestrian walkway. Image: Swedish Transport Agency

Do I have to follow traffic light rules?

Yes, you have to follow the same rules as other road users when using an e-scooter, which means stopping at red lights. If you run a red light, you’ll risk a fine of 1,500 kronor, with an extra 1,000 kronor fine on top of that if you skip a red light at a pedestrian crossing where someone is crossing the road.

You also have to follow rules for one-way streets and stop signs – you risk a 500 kronor fine if you drive the wrong way down a one-way street, and a 1,000 kronor fine if you ignore a stop sign.