Taking the challenge by bus to reduce local air pollution

Hannah Wakley
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Air pollution kills more people each year than either obesity or passive smoking. Despite this fact, the effects of pollution are often left out of conversations surrounding health and well-being. We may not have the suffocating smog of the 1950’s, but air pollution has not disappeared, it has just changed. The damaging particles we inhale now are smaller and invisible to the naked eye, but are equally as damaging. In addition, their smaller size makes it easier for them to penetrate our lungs. Over time they can cause serious health conditions, including: heart disease, cancer, asthma and may even stunt the development of children’s lungs.

Improving local air quality means improving our health—it is essential. The most effective way to begin reducing pollution is to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. An effective way to do this is to encourage people to take public transport. Not only are buses a more efficient use of road space, but they also reduce congestion making it easier for all road users to navigate the city.

Healthy Air Leicester and Leicestershire was formed in 2013 by an alliance of campaign groups and local residents concerned about air pollution. Their goal is to raise awareness and bring attention to this very important issue. Today Air campaigner, Adham Fisher is hoping to raise awareness of the issue and bring Healthy Air Leicester and Leicestershire into the spotlight. In order to create conversation surrounding his cause he will take as many buses as possible around the city of Leicester. We hope that through his challenge he will demonstrate how accessible public transport truly is, and encourage people to use the bus system.

Despite already existing efforts, more needs to be done to ensure public transport is efficient and cost-effective. The easier it is for people to take the train or bus, the more likely it is they will leave their cars at home. Leicester Friends of the Earth conducted a survey analysing the public’s transport preferences, the results showed that the main reason people avoid taking the bus was because of the price. We hope that we can demonstrate that the health benefits of switching to public transport and encourage drivers to consider alternatives to the car.

We are currently working on reducing the emissions of the buses themselves, Leicester City Council is collaborating with the bus companies to clean up their vehicles—we hope that with time and effort the project will be a success.

Follow Adham’s progress today though Leicester Friends of the Earth Twitter page (@LeicFoE). Support him using the hashtag #AdhamOnTheBus. All details of the final challenge will be published here: www.healthyairleics.weebly.com. If anyone tries a similar challenge in another city we would love to hear from you! You can email us at healthyairleics@gmail.com.

Hannah Wakley from Healthy Air Leicester and Leicestershire 

Today I am collaborating with Friends Of The Earth and the Healthy Air Leicester and Leicestershire campaign to raise awareness of air pollution through smarter and more sustainable travel. Today I will be attempting to take as many buses in Leicester as possible, with the hope that my challenge will generate more interest in the campaign.

Leicester is one of the most polluted cities in the UK. I remember reading an article some years ago which stated there was scarcely anywhere in Britain with totally clean air. We need to do more to ensure we make more sustainable travel choices to improve local air pollution.

The first time I took a hybrid bus I was convinced that the driver was turning the engine off at each stop. To make bus travel more appealing, the number of buses with Wi-Fi is increasing, meaning people can work as they commute. Despite these efforts more needs to be done. Public transport must be made as affordable and as practical as possible so that more people will use it. I also think that if people have convenient choices of transport, like bicycle or a bus, they might not use the car all the time, and therefore reduce air pollution.

Adham Fisher, Air quality campaigner

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