Each year, 175 people die locally from the impact of toxic air pollution. North Street is regularly shown to be one of the most polluted roads in the UK.
The climate crisis we face isn’t just affecting our planet – it’s affecting our health.
While air quality in the city has improved in recent years, there is still much to be done, especially in the city centre.
Right now, we are still amid a pandemic which attacks our lungs and the pandemic is not done with us yet. The need for clean air has never been more important.
During lockdown huge numbers of people reconnected with nature and families discovered cycling without the menace of traffic. Skype lessened the office commute and online retail boomed.
But as we are beginning to recover, car use has risen to pre-covid levels – even though the economy isn’t fully open.
Public transport has been especially hard hit by the pandemic. Our city’s existing bus network normally carries around 60 million passenger trips each year.
Social distancing means even with 80 per cent of buses operating with 50 per cent capacity means that millions of trips will need to be made up by a combination of active travel or car trips.
Tackling toxic emissions isn’t just down to politicians. But we will do our bit. As our city recovers, we are committed to ensuring that we have many good sustainable transport options including public transport, walking and cycling.
Those sustainable transport options must come alongside a reduction in car use.
Our city doesn’t have the capacity to ensure that those who are making essential journeys – including people with disabilities who can’t travel another way and our emergency services – are able to do so unimpeded without less traffic. Nor does our health – which battles the challenge too.
I urge those using cars to consider alternative travel options, the necessity of their journey and the impact this has on others by the emissions they create.
The challenge we face as a city is how we tackle our climate emergency. A selection of residents will soon be able to have their say on this in our climate assembly – which will focus on that key transport challenge.
But we can’t lose sight of what this really is about – our health, wellbeing and our future.
Pete West is a Green councillor and the joint chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.
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