As London experiences another bout of High Air Pollution, it is worth pointing out that Particulate Matter and NO2 pollution varies greatly depending on traffic volumes.
In November 2014, ICAG partnered with Healthy Air, an initiative by Client Earth, the organisation who has won a ruling at the European Court against the British Government for failing to implement policies to lower illegal levels of air pollution.
Our goal was to measure NO2 pollution in South Islington.
Here are the results and our Executive Summary:
- The Islington Cyclists Action Group and Healthy Air have partnered in an initiative to measure air quality in South Islington.
- The area chosen has been earmarked by the Council to improve conditions for people who wish to travel by bicycle.
- The Council has received £2,000,000 from Transport for London to provide safe cycling infrastructure on three important routes in the area:
- An East-West route from Mount Pleasant to De Beauvoir Town, named Quietway 38
- An East-West route along Old Street and Clerkenwell Road, which represents the busiest cycling route in the Central London Cycling Grid
- A short North-South stretch, which requires amelioration of a crossing of the arterial City Road
- The Council aims to spend the money installing safe infrastructure without any alterations to motor traffic flows
- ICAG maintains that filtering motoring traffic at key places is a very inexpensive way to reach two important goals:
- Increase the level of actual and perceived safety of cycling
- Improve air quality to the benefit of all users of the relevant roads: people on foot, on bikes, on buses and people working in shops and offices facing these roads
- Islington Council has published its Air Quality Strategy 2014-17 which shows (page 20) that
- Old Street breaches safe levels of NO2 by 70%
- There has been no improvement in the past three years
- Islington Council has a duty to implement measures as soon as possible, to bring air quality to safe levels.
- ICAG’s opinion is that some of the best cycling routes (determined by desire lines) are marred by rat running by motor traffic. This has detrimental effects not just on the safety of people on bikes but especially on the health and safety of everyone who lives or walks on these streets.
- ICAG has therefore taken samples on a number of roads, to contrast the air quality on rat runs with truly calm residential streets. The results have confirmed ICAG’s concerns: namely:
- Clerkenwell Road and Old Street, the main East West corridor, used by thousands of daily commuters on bike registers pollution levels which are 50% higher than the EU safe levels (40ug/m3 of nitrogen dioxide). The European Court of Justice has ruled in November 2014, that the UK Government has to take measure as soon as possible to bring air pollution below the annual limit
- The residential rat-runs, some of which have been designated as Cycling Quietways, also experience pollution above the legal limits
- Only areas which have been filtered to prevent through traffic have safe air quality
- In other words, in April 2013, the Mayor has presented a Cycling Vision, with the admirable aim of making cycling appealing to all Londoners. However, many of the routes chosen (following established desire lines) for the Central London Cycling Grid experience unhealthy levels of air pollution.
- It is therefore critical, morally unavoidable and mandated by law that Transport for London and Islington Council take appropriate motor traffic reduction measures to ensure that Londoners can engage in active travel without impairment to their health.