Ben Bowskill, Partnerships and Public Affairs Manager for Sustrans South shares his thoughts on how we can all reduce air pollution in Bristol.
Last week was national Clean Air Day; an annual campaign that helps to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and the actions we can all take to help to reduce it.
In Bristol, as with cities and towns across the UK, Sustrans is focusing on how we can all take action to create a healthier and more enjoyable place to live, work and visit, and all whilst improving local air quality.
In the UK, it is estimated that air pollution contributes to around 36,000 deaths per year. In Bristol air pollution contributes to an estimated 300 of those deaths. Together, we can change this.
Government research shows that road transport is one of the biggest contributors to poor air quality in the UK. Poor quality air affects everyone. Children, older people and those with heart, breathing and other underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable. Air pollution moves from your lungs into your bloodstream and can cause heart and lung disease, may contribute to mental health issues, and could leave us more at risk from COVID-19 too.
There are changes we can make today to help reduce air pollution in our city. Leaving the car at home for short journeys – walking to the shops, scooting to school, cycling to work and choosing public transport for journeys are just a few everyday things we can all do.
While travelling under our own steam, we can protect the environment around us by reducing the number of polluting vehicles on the road, and we can feel the many benefits to our health. In our 2021 Bristol Walking and Cycling Index, we found that every year, walking and cycling in Bristol prevents 916 serious long-term health conditions.
Being active while we travel also improves our wellbeing. It means we can spend time outdoors. We can enjoy being surrounded by the sights and sounds of our local area. We can explore where we live, have opportunities to interact with people in our communities, with nature and sometimes be in green spaces along the way. And that’s all whilst going about our day.
The urgent need for cleaner air is why Bristol City Council is introducing a Clean Air Zone in the city centre later this year. Alongside financial support to help people and businesses take this opportunity to transition to cleaner vehicles, we can all do our bit to improve air quality by choosing to walk, wheel and cycle more.
Clean air will benefit us all and now is a great time to start making some small changes that will make a big difference to our city. We can all help to make Bristol a healthier and happier place to be.
Sustrans considers walking, wheeling and cycling a key element in improving air quality, find out more on their website.
Bristol City Council can help you try more sustainable ways of travelling, go to the free active travel support webpage for more information.