Tour de France massively improved air quality in Huddersfield

Monitoring adds weight to argument that cycling is key to air pollution reduction

by Sarah Barth   August 17, 2014  

Huddersfield - Ben Robinson

The air quality in Huddersfield improved dramatically when roads closed around the Tour de France Grand Départ in July, monitoring has found.

The council shut dozens of roads around the route,  from Ainley Top to Holme Moss, as well as a large number of feeder roads.

Monitoring stations in the town have found that as a result, there was a big fall in air pollution during the times of the road closures.

There was a huge fall in nitrogen dioxide levels, a gas caused by heavy traffic.

Clr Steve Hall, Kirklees Cabinet member for Environmental Health, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: “We noticed a striking difference when the roads were closed to traffic. The drop in the pollution level was dramatic and immediate.

“The unusual situation created by the visit of the Tour de France highlights how our car use affects pollution levels and shows the benefits of cycling and walking.

“I hope that one of the legacies of the Tour de France is to increase the number of journeys, particularly those done by commuters, completed by cycling and walking which will benefit people by increasing fitness levels through exercise but also improving the quality of the air we breathe.”

Earlier this year we reported how cycling was highlighted by both the World Health Organisation (WHO), and an eminent professor of environmental health as part of the solution to the problem of worsening air quality.

In most cities where there is enough data to compare current air pollution levels with previous years, the situation is getting worse.

The WHO estimated that outdoor air pollution was responsible for 3.7 million premature deaths of individuals under the age of 60 around the world in 2012.

The WHO director for public health, environmental and social determinants of health, Dr Maria Neira, underlined the prominent role that active transport and improved cycling infrastructure plays in the cities which have improved their air quality.

She said: “Effective policies and strategies are well understood, but they need to be implemented at sufficient scale.

“Cities such as Copenhagen and Bogotà, for example, have improved air quality by promoting ‘active transport’ and prioritizing dedicated networks of urban public transport, walking and cycling.

“We can win the fight against air pollution and reduce the number of people suffering from respiratory and heart disease, as well as lung cancer."

The government in the UK also issued figures last month that suggested 29,000 premature deaths per year came as a result of poor air quality.

In April the level of pollution in some parts of south-east England reached the top of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' ten-point scale, as a result of particular weather conditions and Saharan dust being blown north.

Experts were divided as to whether cycling in these conditions would cause harm or not, but both the WHO and professor Frank Kelly of King’s College, London, agree that it is key in solving the problem.

Prof Kelly, professor of environmental health, wrote a piece for the Evening Standard in which he outlined his beliefs that London’s poor air quality now “poses a significant threat to our health.”

In the piece he highlighted the diesel engines that power nearly all of our public transportation vehicles and around half of the cars on the capital’s roads as the primary culprits for the city’s poor air quality.

He also suggested a number of measures that should be taken to improve the state of the city’s air, including improvements to cycling infrastructure regardless of the cost it may incur.

He wrote: “The UK’s air quality improvements have miserably stalled and in London especially this now poses a significant threat to our health.

“To cut pollution we must reduce traffic and ensure that what remains on the road is cleaner.

“We could do so through a more effective low-emission zone; investing in clean and affordable public transport; moving back from diesel to petrol or at least banning all highly polluting diesel vehicles; lowering speed limits and enhancing cycle routes.

“There will be costs — but these should be balanced against the cost of the impact of air pollution in the UK, estimated at up to £19 billion a year.”

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Sadly our political leaders would rather pay massive EU fines and watch thousands of British citizens die prematurely each year, than tackle the problem of car dependency created by Government policy. It is cheaper to reduce car dependency then to carry on subsidising it, but they have fallen victim to their own propaganda!

posted by Kim [147 posts]
17th August 2014 - 11:26

50 Likes

Completely agree with Kim's comment. Interesting to read in conjunction with something like this too:

http://www.streetfilms.org/to-really-prosper-nyc-needs-a-great-network-o...

We're getting transport very, very wrong and after 60 years of only engineering for one solution ... it's hard for people to take a step back and see the forest for the trees. Huddersfield, like any other town could fix it if they wanted to ....

My cycling blog: http://girodilento.com/

posted by girodilento [33 posts]
17th August 2014 - 11:41

41 Likes

So, over the course of a century, if not fixed obesity and traffic pollution will account for 6 million deaths in the UK!! (obesity about 30k deaths per year).

The answer is cycling, autonomous electric vehicles + solar power and wind power + the rapid advances that are happening in battery tech'

I agree with girodilento and Idk why some are insisting that cyclists share the main roads where the danger and pollution is. Personally I like CS3 and cycling down roads that are empty of motors because they've been blocked off - a far more pleasant less stressful ride. Contrast with the nightmare that is CS2 which even if it was segregated and prioritised over side roads would still have much more danger from those side roads.

posted by kie7077 [567 posts]
17th August 2014 - 12:35

41 Likes

In other breaking news - Pope Declares Himself Catholic.

posted by Some Fella [824 posts]
17th August 2014 - 12:41

40 Likes

Some cold hard figures would be good otherwise its nothing more than hearsay really.

Kim wrote:
Sadly our political leaders would rather pay massive EU fines and watch thousands of British citizens die prematurely each year, than tackle the problem of car dependency created by Government policy.

Its a bit more than just 'policy'. The whole car explosion of the early 70's was down to the greed of Ernest Marples (Go and read up on the guy to see what kind of scum get into ministerial positions), who employed a guy to 'restructure' the railways but went far beyond his remit and decimated them, leaving a wide opportunity for a road building programme that had not been seen before in the UK. And guess who happened to be a major stakeholder in a civil engineering company?

Throughout the 90's and 00's, you've had supermarkets pushing through planning applications on out of town big box units (and quite often retroactively) because they know that if people drive to the shops, they will buy more.

If people buy more of the energy rich processed foods now available, they tend (feel compelled) to consume them and so you have people not expending energy in travelling to buy energy dense foods that they over consume.

And that, boy and girls, is how we have the obesity crisis we're all finally beginning to notice.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [604 posts]
17th August 2014 - 15:23

33 Likes

It's OK - when they've all toddled off to their early graves we'll have the roads to ourselves. Cool

posted by mbrads72 [139 posts]
17th August 2014 - 15:31

34 Likes

This article sums up exactly the whole problem.

"Cllr Steve Hall, Kirklees Cabinet member for Environmental Health, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: [...] I hope that one of the legacies [...] is to increase the number of journeys [...] completed by cycling and walking"

The cabinet member for Environmental Health plans to do no more than hope about a legacy. Not plan the legacy, nor implement the legacy, nor indeed do anything at all.

This is someone actually put in a position of power by the electorate.

Every single one of us that isn't in a position of power is busy breathing in the fumes, but the people at the top (who realise the problem and can solve it) plan to do nothing. They shall only spend their time hoping.

But, unlike most politicians, at least he isn't lying about it and pretending to do something - he claims only to be hoping, and claims nothing more.

edit: As a resident of the area, I have written to the councillor to ask for his response to my wondering about this inaction.

posted by severs1966 [115 posts]
17th August 2014 - 20:19

18 Likes

severs1966 wrote:
edit: As a resident of the area, I have written to the councillor to ask for his response to my wondering about this inaction.

More likely to get a response than any amount of venting here. Good luck!

posted by truffy [532 posts]
18th August 2014 - 5:51

22 Likes

What about initiating a national car-free day on the roads in a Sunday as part of a lasting legacy? That would be awesome Smile

posted by Frazzler [4 posts]
18th August 2014 - 9:42

11 Likes

zanf wrote:
Some cold hard figures would be good otherwise its nothing more than hearsay really.

Kim wrote:
Sadly our political leaders would rather pay massive EU fines and watch thousands of British citizens die prematurely each year, than tackle the problem of car dependency created by Government policy.

Its a bit more than just 'policy'. The whole car explosion of the early 70's was down to the greed of Ernest Marples (Go and read up on the guy to see what kind of scum get into ministerial positions), who employed a guy to 'restructure' the railways but went far beyond his remit and decimated them, leaving a wide opportunity for a road building programme that had not been seen before in the UK. And guess who happened to be a major stakeholder in a civil engineering company?

Throughout the 90's and 00's, you've had supermarkets pushing through planning applications on out of town big box units (and quite often retroactively) because they know that if people drive to the shops, they will buy more.

If people buy more of the energy rich processed foods now available, they tend (feel compelled) to consume them and so you have people not expending energy in travelling to buy energy dense foods that they over consume.

And that, boy and girls, is how we have the obesity crisis we're all finally beginning to notice.

What I think you'll find is that government policy reacted to what the electorate wanted at the time. The government didn't force people to buy cars. People wanted them, they could afford them and they wanted roads to drive them on. That it also provided jobs and created infrastructure that enabled growth was clearly also popular with the Government.

We have an obesity crisis because food is relatively cheap and millions of people eat too much and do too little exercise. They do this because they choose to. Not because it's a government plan. If people wanted a nice healthy salad for dinner then the food companies would gear themselves up to producing that instead. It's a lot easier to make a profit selling people what they want to buy than it is entering into a forty year conspiracy to make them buy something that they don't really want.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
18th August 2014 - 9:54

13 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
zanf wrote:
Some cold hard figures would be good otherwise its nothing more than hearsay really.

Kim wrote:
Sadly our political leaders would rather pay massive EU fines and watch thousands of British citizens die prematurely each year, than tackle the problem of car dependency created by Government policy.

Its a bit more than just 'policy'. The whole car explosion of the early 70's was down to the greed of Ernest Marples (Go and read up on the guy to see what kind of scum get into ministerial positions), who employed a guy to 'restructure' the railways but went far beyond his remit and decimated them, leaving a wide opportunity for a road building programme that had not been seen before in the UK. And guess who happened to be a major stakeholder in a civil engineering company?

Throughout the 90's and 00's, you've had supermarkets pushing through planning applications on out of town big box units (and quite often retroactively) because they know that if people drive to the shops, they will buy more.

If people buy more of the energy rich processed foods now available, they tend (feel compelled) to consume them and so you have people not expending energy in travelling to buy energy dense foods that they over consume.

And that, boy and girls, is how we have the obesity crisis we're all finally beginning to notice.

What I think you'll find is that government policy reacted to what the electorate wanted at the time. The government didn't force people to buy cars. People wanted them, they could afford them and they wanted roads to drive them on. That it also provided jobs and created infrastructure that enabled growth was clearly also popular with the Government.

We have an obesity crisis because food is relatively cheap and millions of people eat too much and do too little exercise. They do this because they choose to. Not because it's a government plan. If people wanted a nice healthy salad for dinner then the food companies would gear themselves up to producing that instead. It's a lot easier to make a profit selling people what they want to buy than it is entering into a forty year conspiracy to make them buy something that they don't really want.

Very good post - we get the politicians we (collectively) deserve.

posted by Duncann [91 posts]
18th August 2014 - 16:00

4 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
We have an obesity crisis because food is relatively cheap and millions of people eat too much and do too little exercise.

The cheap food is shit, that's the problem. Saturated fats, salt, sugar in cheap ready meals, and people are lazy. Eating healthily is more expensive and takes more time...precious time away from the telly or Nintendo.

posted by truffy [532 posts]
18th August 2014 - 16:22

7 Likes

severs1966 wrote:
[...]As a resident of the area, I have written to the councillor to ask for his response to my wondering about this inaction.

No answer this week. I now expect no answer at all. I also expect the councillor most directly responsible to do nothing whatsoever, but that was my starting assumption, so they have not disappointed any locals more than we already knew.

posted by severs1966 [115 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 16:33

0 Likes