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Aberdeen LEZ: We count how many drivers get caught out on Denburn during rush hour

We wanted to see just how many people were being caught out by the newly enforced LEZ.

It definitely feels as though everyone has been complaining about the new LEZ in Aberdeen — long before it was even enforced.

But on June 1, the cameras were turned on and the enforcement of Aberdeen’s low emission zone officially started.

From now on, anyone driving a vehicle that does not meet the strict requirements will be slapped with a £60 fine if they enter it, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Residents and visitors alike have bemoaned the new road rules, with many convinced it will have any impact on air quality in the Granite City.

And frustrated drivers have slammed the clean air zone as another way to “increase revenue through fines”.

The Woolmanhill Roundabout and the Denburn are two very busy areas of the city. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

We’ve seen posts on social media complaining about the Denburn carriageway being included in the low emission zone, with many saying that the signage isn’t very clear.

Some even claimed they witnessed a few near-accidents when drivers realised they were about to enter the LEZ at the last minute and slammed on the brakes before getting “trapped”.

An Aberdeen street sign with LEZ added
The green LEZ symbol has been added to city centre signs, warning drivers of the clean air zone ahead. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

We wanted to see just how many people were being caught out by the newly-enforced LEZ at the Denburn.

On Friday morning I headed down to Woolmanhill roundabout with P&J video editor Callum Main to see for myself.

And I have to say, the results were actually pretty surprising.

How many non-compliant vehicles actually entered the LEZ via the Denburn?

I thought the Denburn would be busy with morning commuters rushing to work or even the bus and train stations, but I never expected quite so many drivers to go by in an hour.

Our vantage point at the Woolmanhill Roundabout crossing, where we were able to see the number plates of vehicles driving in both directions. Image: Lauren Taylor / DC Thomson

Between 7.30am and 8.30am I counted a grand total of 873 vehicles. But the “fun” didn’t stop there, because I had to manually input each and every registration plate into the official checker to see if they were compliant or not.

And, disclaimer, there were quite a few registration plates that we could not pick up from the video, because they were driving too fast or obscured by other vehicles.

But out of the 873 vehicles we caught on film, 849 of them met the requirements to enter the low emission zone.

This is what the online checker shows if your car does not meet the LEZ requirements. Image: Low Emission Zones

That means a mere 23 did not meet the requirements — which equates to 2.6% of vehicles.

If everyone paid a £60 fine after being caught in the LEZ that would be £1,380. 

Let’s break it down even more: what kind of non-compliant vehicles used the Denburn?

The Denburn is heavily used by drivers of all kinds of vehicles — cars, buses, vans and even HGVs trundled past us as we filmed the road.

As we watched the steady flow of traffic, Callum started looking up certain registration plates he spotted on older-looking vehicles.

A bird's eye view of the Denburn in Aberdeen, with LEZ painted on the road
A bird’s eye view of the Denburn. Image: Callum Main / DC Thomson

He was pretty surprised that the few he punched into his phone were all compliant.

Nearly all the non-compliant vehicles I later spotted in the video were diesel. In fact, only one was a petrol car — a BMW built in 1999.

At least 10 of the diesel vehicles I counted were manufactured in 2014. This means most were just one year older than the cut-off date of 2015, after which vehicles generally meet LEZ requirements.

The two oldest vehicles were made in 1999 (including the BMW), the newest in 2015.

I was actually taken aback when I realised a shiny looking Mini Cooper wasn’t compliant. The nifty little blue car was built in 2015, and it must have only just missed the requirements.

The Woolmanhill Roundabout
The Woolmanhill Roundabout. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

And of the 23 vehicles caught out eight were vans, another eight were taxis, and seven were cars.

Luckily taxi drivers have been granted another year’s exemption from the LEZ, meaning they can still enter the clean air zone freely until June 2025.

I spotted one taxi go through the zone at least three times — if they were not currently exempt they would have been slapped with a fine of £180.

Were the results really that surprising?

Again, I don’t think I’d expected to count just so many cars, or how many hours it would take to manually check each and every number plate.

There was a constant stream of traffic. Image: Lauren Taylor / DC Thomson

And again, there were definitely quite a lot of cars I missed for one reason or another.

Aberdeen City Council previously estimated that 86% of cars would be compliant, meaning only 14% would not be permitted to enter the LEZ.

So before I started manually entering each individual registration plate into the official checker I had already assumed I wouldn’t find a staggering number of vehicles being caught out.

But, I didn’t anticipate it would be quite as low as 2.6%.

The sign to the right of the entrance quite clearly shows the LEZ symbol. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Particularly on the Denburn, where so many people had complained online that the signage isn’t clear enough, resulting in people getting trapped on the dual carriageway with no choice but to drive on through.

A sign at Woolmanhill
A close-up of the sign coming down from Skene Square. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

But from our vantage point on the crossing island at the roundabout, we couldn’t see any panicked maneuvers to avoid entering the LEZ. Or, for that matter, anyone looking puzzled or annoyed by being caught out.

It could well be that by the end of the first working week of the LEZ being enforced, drivers have figured out a new way to navigate the city centre.

Check if your car is LEZ compliant online here.

Read more on Aberdeen’s LEZ: