On 9th July 2019, I interviewed Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London for Time Out magazine. Here’s the first few minutes of the interview and the main question:
I’d like to use the first few minutes to say thank you and provide some context for my question.
Thank you for the pollution warnings two years ago that made me think about what my children were breathing, inspired me to buy an AQMesh monitor to measure and take action to reduce their air pollution exposure.
Thank you for monitoring schools and identifying the 50 most polluted schools in London and for initial funding towards living green walls and air purifiers.
Thank you for the low emission bus routes which have mostly been successful.
Thank you for ULEZ and your attempts to get the most polluting vehicles off the road.
Thank you for leading the way in making London’s air that much cleaner in the absence of leadership from our government.
Thank you for telling everyone that it’s a shocking fact that London’s air is a public health crisis and that it’s also a matter of social justice. Studies have shown that the poorest Londoners, who are least likely to own a car suffer the most from bad air.
Hundreds of thousands of people live, work, attend schools and unavoidably travel on the North-South Circular and arterial main roads managed by TfL. Many of these are outside the proposed ULEZ expansion in 2021.
Their peak exposure is during the morning and evening rush hours when these roads are saturated with start stop idling traffic. Every acceleration produces around ten times the emissions, braking releases particulate matter (microscopic bits of rubber, plastic, metal and oil) from brake, tyre, engine and roads surface wear). An idling vehicle produces almost twice the emissions as a moving vehicle.
At the time children travel to school on these arterial main roads, it is toxic air they’re breathing and it is these peaks of air pollution that contribute to their daily average exposure above the limits known to reduce children’s lung volume by 5-10%.
When children wait at TfL kerbside bus shelters, vehicles are permitted to stop, idle and accelerate right next to them even though TfL know that a few metres between a vehicle exhaust pipe and a child’s face makes a massive difference to their air pollution exposure.
On congested arterial roads like the A3 in Wandsworth a 2-3 minute one mile drive, takes 14-16 minutes during rush hour with thousands of vehicles each stop/starting 40+ times and idling for around 12 minutes to drive one mile. When we repeatedly held A3 traffic stationary for 5 minutes on Clean Air Day we saw a significant fall in vehicle emissions.
Even parked vehicles add to the toxic air, as the law permits drivers to idle vehicles outside nurseries, schools, GP surgeries, hospitals, playgrounds etc, every day and for as long as they like. 99% of drivers switch off their engine if asked to by an ‘authorised person’ so fines are rarely issued, even for repeat offenders.
Time spent on these roads and proximity to exhaust pipes causes damage to cells lining all internal organs and cells lining all blood vessels.
One of the key solutions being promoted to reduce air pollution is to confine motorists to main roads through introduction of Low traffic neighbourhoods. Some traffic will evaporate as people choose not to drive short journeys and some will be displaced. The air pollution gap between the most and least affluent communities will increase.
TfL are responsible for the roads where air pollution is highest, where millions are regularly exposed to toxic air on their journey to and from work/school but the resulting serious injuries & fatalities are not part of TfL’s Vision Zero.
There is a need for TfL Directors to be competent in both air pollution and climate change and to ensure deprived communities are not invisible in policy and decision making.
Q. What are you doing to reduce air pollution exposure for Londoners who travel on illegally polluted TfL managed roads, like the A3 in Wandsworth and the South Circular Road, that are outside the ULEZ 2021 expansion?