Clean Air Day on 8 October is a chance to wise up about air pollution, share information with your friends and colleagues, and take action to make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.
During the COVID-19 lockdown we experienced cleaner air and saw massive shifts in low pollution behaviours. Let’s keep up the momentum and keep our air clean. We can create a new normal with clean air by continuing to make these positive changes and keep healthy.
To help you get started on your clean air journey, or take your pollution-busting actions to the next level, Merton resident and Young Community Champion Rashmin has written a fantastic blog highlighting the impact you can have on the environment, and your health, by making your pledge to #BreatheCleanerAir.
1. Build active travel into your day by walking, cycling or scooting to work or school rather than driving wherever possible
Help to preserve the earth and keep it healthy for future generations by walking, cycling or scooting to your place of work.
Would like your children to live in a world blanketed by greenhouse gasses? Active travel not only reduces your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions but improves your health.
This graph (right) shows that using a bicycle is the most efficient way to travel compared to its 6 competitors.
In June 2020, Merton Council introduced its £490,000 Active & Healthy Travel Response to Covid-19 plan. The plan aims to build an increased cycling network and promote walking/cycling to work to reduce congestion, air pollution and implement social distancing. With London’s transport system to run at ⅕ of pre-Covid levels, Merton Council will repurpose some of the borough’s streets and key locations to serve this unprecedented demand for walking and cycling in a major strategic shift to meet long term sustainability and active travel goals. Now, more and more of Merton’s population is choosing active travel as a means of getting to their place of work.
2. Choose less polluted walking and/or cycling routes and use quiet side roads to reduce exposure to air pollution
Road transport accounts for a third of nitrogen oxide emissions and is the dominant source in urban, heavily-trafficked areas. The European Environment Agency estimates that road transport contributes to excessive concentrations of about 70% for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and about 30% for particulate matter.
Are you walking or cycling to work already? That's great! But aim to use quiet roads, away from traffic, as this will reduce your exposure to pollution. The Mayor of London's Clean Air Route Finder allows one to find the cleanest route to their destination.
Heavy intakes of pollution from vehicle exhausts can lead to breathing problems and lung cancer. The image above shows the amount of pollution emitted by different sources.
Emissions from road traffic have been identified as the major source of pollution in the borough of Merton.
In May, Merton Council published its Strategy to implement measures to repurpose road space to facilitate walking and cycling to accommodate the tenfold increase in cycling that is expected as a result of the travel challenges presented by Covid-19. We’re pleased Merton Council has recognized the consequences of worsening air quality, road danger and congestion that will be caused by increased motor if they fail to act swiftly at this time.
3. Travel by public transport for longer journeys and/or instead of driving wherever possible
Travelling by public transport not only decreases greenhouse gases emissions but also reduces your carbon footprint. It reduces congestion on roads and hence idling, which in turn reduces pollution levels.
The chart below from “The Conversation” shows that lorries and cars are the most polluting modes of transport.
Did you know that there are 445 bus stops and 5 tube stations in the borough of Merton alone? So there is no excuse for not having connectivity within the borough.
In 2019, there were around 78,497 cars in Merton or roughly one car per household. Car ownership is up from previous years. Merton's London Implementation Plan (LIP) target is to reduce car ownership to 73,800 by 2021, in corroboration with Transport for London. Read more here
Travelling by public transport usually doesn’t take longer than using your personal vehicle. For example, a trip by car from New Malden to Westminister station takes 33 mins and by train it takes 34 mins. So, one can help save the environment without having to compromise on travel time.
4. Stop idling your car when parked outside/nearby school sites, in traffic, at level crossings etc
The message is simple: turn off your engine when your car is stationary for an unknown period of time. It not only helps the environment but you too as keeping your engine idling for prolonged periods of time can damage the battery. According to Merton Council, idling for an hour can waste half a gallon or more of fuel. You do not need to keep your engine running to stay warm - your engine will stay warm for 30-60 minutes after it is switched off.
On Wednesday 13th March, a six-strong group of volunteers including parents and councillors hit the streets around Morden Primary School on London Road to stop parents leaving their cars idling.
Keeping cars turned on whilst picking up/dropping off kids at school is a major example of idling and is a national problem. More recently, a new road that leads to Singlegate Primary school in Colliers Wood will only permit road traffic during pick up/drop of periods, to reduce idling and promote walking or cycling to school.
Councillor Martin Whelton, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport, said: "It shows how seriously we take air quality and emissions and environment outside our schools, as Merton declared a climate emergency last year.” Read more
5. Get together with people from your household or support bubble to create a car share club if/when driving is necessary
Is someone in your household or support bubble going to the same destination as you? Why not share a car? Sharing your car with others can cut the amount of pollution emitted by 1/2! It will also directly benefit you because as more people do this, the less traffic there will be on roads.
Coronavirus guidance: People from a household or support bubble can travel together in a vehicle. You should wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people outside your household or support bubble. Take care to use face coverings properly.
Merton Council is aiming to ensure that every resident has access to car club vehicles. You can find car club cars parked on-street throughout Merton.
There are three types of car clubs in Merton:
Round-trip (or station-based) – You need to return round-trip vehicles to their original parking bay when you've finished using them.
Flexible – You can pick up and drop off a vehicle at any authorised parking space within the scheme's operating area. Users locate parked vehicles via an app.
Point-to-point – You can pick a car and return to a destination parking space rather than to base.
Your Personal Air Pollution Calculator
Use can now use Global Action Plan's Personal Air Pollution Calculator to work out your individual contribution to air pollution in the UK, and find out what you can do to reduce emissions and protect your health.
Get started at calculator.cleanairhub.org.uk/quiz