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Evidence based interventions that improve Air Quality

09.05.23 - 2:30PM

Thank you all for contributing or attending the webinar. If you missed it watch the recording now.

Most of us know a reasonable amount about the impacts of poor ambient (outdoor) air quality on health, and if not, know how to read and assess the medical literature. We can also understand some of the literature about the sources of air pollution.

But what about the solutions? Which ones make the most difference and what are the co-benefits or downsides of each.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods, low-emission zones, 15-minute cities have all become controversial in recent times. But what is the evidence around their impact both positive and negative. And are we missing other major causes of air pollution such as wood burning and agriculture with our focus on active travel.

Rachel Aldred is Professor of Transport at the University of Westminster and Director of the Active Travel Academy. Rachel has fifteen years’ experience of researching active travel.

Major investment in active travel in Outer London: Impacts on travel behaviour, physical activity, and health
Rachel Aldred
Rachel Aldred

Tom Parkes, Air Quality Lead, has led Camden’s ambitious air quality programme since 2019, with a core mission to protect and improve public health for the benefit of everyone living, working and learning in the borough.

The Invisible City talk by Tom Parkes
Tom Parkes
Tom Parkes

Dr Gary Fuller, Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health, Senior Lecturer in Air Quality Measurement, Imperial College London who is passionate about communicating air pollution science to policymakers and the public.

The evidence is clear: low-emission zones like London’s ULEZ work
Gary Fuller
Gary Fuller

Will Roderick manages the Green and Healthy Streets Accelerator at C40 Cities, supporting 36 global cities to meet ambitious urban transport commitments and transform their cities into greener, healthier, and more prosperous places to live.

Will Roderick
Will Roderick
Will Roderick

Questions submitted in advance

1. Why has the 15-minute city become such a political/human rights/nanny-state issue? I thought it was simply about convenience.

2. How can we ensure that solutions to improve air quality are accessible and equitable for all communities, particularly those that are most impacted by air pollution?

3. I don't think it's correct to say that LTNs/ 15 min cities have become controversial. I think that's what 'they' want us to think. I think most people realise the impacts of car dependency are huge and negative. There's still work to do to ensure everyone understands this better. And there is probably more to do on some aspects than others - i.e., where people don't realise how much things are affecting them, their children, elderly people etc. The evidence is all there on how to deliver mode shift: we need to restrict road space (LTNs) and restrict parking. This will help ensure public transport is financially viable - and of course we need to make sure public transport is effective. Those are the two biggest impactors. But we also need to have much more public health education on all the health impacts, especially inactivity.

4. In Oxford (UK) we have some very very controversial and much-vandalised LTNs. By far the biggest source of resistance is the ‘it pushes traffic to main roads’ argument, and at some junctions and some roads here, it probably does. We are in a perpetual game of fact tennis, despite our best efforts to move onto positive stories and powerful anecdotes. How on Earth do we move the conversation past the peripheral roads argument - it seems impossible to do so without most people understanding the basics of car journeys being demand-led, elastic, and believing in modal shift. And we rarely have the time and space to explain this.

5. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have made my area safer, quieter and more pleasant to live in for everyone, yet there is a loud public voice against them... how can we counter this loud minority who moan about any money spent on trees and cycle lanes is a waste, how can we bring people along and help everyone have a vision of a more pleasant world rather than preaching to the converted?

6. Is there any evidence that LTN divert traffic onto roads in poorer neighbourhood thereby accentuating their pollution problems.

7. Are there any moves to make public transport free?

8. "I'm not so sure we miss the impacts of other issues like wood burning, which we know are bad. Maybe what we do miss is the interrelationship between the various health impacts of cars, which are wide ranging and include: dirty air; inactive lifestyles; constant noise (causing stress and puts people off walking), generally unpleasant environment (cars everywhere, very little greenery and trees - puts us off being outdoors and generally reduces wellbeing); constant road danger (stress, putting us off activity; and actual injury or death); lack of access to parks & play spaces because so much space is given to parked cars and doorstep play is impossible/ has been all but lost, as is doorstep access to nature - both of which improve physical and mental wellbeing; reduced independence for kids, young people and old people, which has big social and wellbeing impacts, for kids this will be long term. So, the health and wellbeing impacts are far reaching. So, my question is about whether we are missing something bigger by focussing on air quality. At the same time, I realise many of us focus on air quality because it has more political traction than other issues like noise.

9. I live in a community in the United States that typically experiences a lot of wildfire smoke in the summertime. Do you have any suggestions for coping with the mental health impacts of living in a community that actively experiences poor air quality on a seasonal basis?

10. We have a small project set up locally to measure AQ at 2 local special schools. We are using Airly monitors outside the schools. What is the best level we should be using as unsafe? the gov, DEFRA WHO and EU all seem to have different opinions. I am not sure what the Airly monitors are set to- they display red, amber green and should give us actual data at the end- any experience of using these or other monitors gratefully received? thank you.

11. What is the scalability of good practices in terms of low emission zones for cities across the globe? What are the main limits to these initiatives and are there major differences between cities in the global North vs south?

Gary Fullers Slides
Gary Fullers Slides

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