OPINION

Pollution is a health crisis as much as a climate one

Posted On 29 Aug 2020 at 8:16 pm

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.

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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.

  1. rolivan Reply

    Please could Cllr West tell us why North St is so polluted if it is only used by Buses and Taxis and the fact that nothing was done about it during the Green Partys last term of Office. When North St needs to be closed Buses use the Seafront, why can he not get the Bus companies to use the seafront for some journeys and get them to go up Grand Avenue like the 700s do but turn left and continue from there. Better still run a circular shuttle service in both directions from the Steine to Grand Ave and along Western Rd and cut out the need for so many what at most times are half empty Buses.

  2. Wendy Standen Reply

    North street has no private cars. It used to flow quite well until it was narrowed so buses picking up passengers stopped the traffic. Bad planning causes the problems . Worried about air pollution? Why haven’t the council banned bonfires and wood burning stoves? Terrible poisonous fumes with no control much more dangerous than cars as no idea what is burning.

  3. Simon Reply

    Such a shame North Street is so polluted!!! As an Asthmatic I totally agree something needs to change especially if that road is a problem, a proper study needs to be conducted into the cause – maybe the buses being used there are not so green after all? Could the council maybe switch back to electric trams around the city like we used to have in the 1900’s, surely that would be much more eco friendly… Maybe the offshore wind farms that feature on the horizon now could subsidise the transport as part of the payback for the aesthetic effect they now have, if we can cut costs then it might make public transport feasible for families vs the expensive/extortionate (and profit making) bus system we have today… Private transport links are still needed for disabled, business and emergency services, but if good (and cheap) transport links were available and we gave visitors the ability to park cheaply and transit quickly in and out of the city then it would definitely reduce the levels of traffic and pollution as a result. Sadly the current and previous Labour administration seem to think its better to punish road users to achieve their ends (with resulting public and political backlash) than address the real problem of taking Brighton and Hove into the future by modernising our transport system so that the City and Businesses can thrive and families and individuals can continue to enjoy the history and heritage of our town/city rather than the blinkered and short sighted approach of demonifying cars and ignoring the needs of the many instead of the few… (I look forward to seeing the die hards sticking by their convictions and proving me wrong by travelling by their preferred transport method all year round! Especially Pete West – hope that we can get a photo of him in the pedestrian lane on his bike for each season! Like we did for his Argus pose. Maybe we could turn it into a calendar with a photo every month and use the revenue generated to contribute in some part towards developing a proper sustainable and accessible transport system in Brighton! Instead of just attacking the poor motorists that mostly have no choice/say)

  4. Andrew Peters Reply

    Councillor West. When you ran your building company in the city how did you manage this without a motor vehicle?

  5. billy Reply

    This column is unbelieveable.
    The North Street pollution was created when they removed the bus laybys from the wider sections of the road, meaning that one bus stopping to unload or to take on new passengers now holds up the other buses. So it was poor planning that slowed up our public transport and created the city’s worst pollution hotspot. Watch the Greens recreate the same own goal when they add a cycle lane to Western road – a road which is already closed to private cars anyway.
    Pete West’s own vanity project, the seafront cycle lane, has already been shown to cause more traffic hold ups and therefore more pollution. With all major cross-city routes now log jammed, commuters and locals on essential journeys have been displaced in smaller residential roads when they are desperate to get home. The bus routes were also diverted simply because of this own goal of congestion.
    As a seafront resident I can tell you it’s now a nightmare just trying to cross the road on foot because the chaos created is like an obstacle course. The single file traffic means there are now less gaps between cars. The displaced car parking is in the middle of the road, then there’s a west direction cycle lane with random posts to mark it, then a bit of pavement, then another cycle lane with cyclists and electric scooters heading west or east as they choose.
    The continued closure of Madeira Drive adds to this problem with displaced cars now clogging up residential streets. It’s also a signal to tourists and day trippers and major event holders that they are no longer welcome here.
    Mr West needs to understand that having one important strategy does not wipe out all the others. And, as we go into the worst recession in living memory, it will be important to encourage local tourism and to help existing businesses in what ever way we can. Without jobs, the local economy falls apart, the council’s own income collapses, and all the other issues we have right now – like rubbish collection, poor recycling, graffiti, deterioration of historical assets like the Madeira Terraces, and the obvious lack of maintenance on public spaces – will only get worse.

  6. This is total nonsense – if true our hospitals would have wards filled with dying, choking patients in equal numbers to those dying of Covid-19 in April!
    The figure cited of those dying ‘prematurely’ of ‘air pollution’ – 35,000 a year – is ludicrous, eco-nonsense.
    The UK has almost no industrial pollution, and many cars are not only hybrid the air coming out is cleaner than that going on. Buses run on green diesel, or are electric.
    The experts, the National Physical Laboratory, say until they are blue in the face that emissions are so low they are ‘barely measurable’. They are the experts. Emissions are just PPB, or parts per billion, ie they cannot possibly ever cause a death..
    The eco-myth makers even claim that ‘Oxford St is one of the most polluted in the world’. All buses use their electric engines when in Oxford St – it’s all nonsense – not surprising as the eco-fanatics have all but run out of ‘issues’ to worry about.
    The four lane Park Lane boulevard in London has just been cut to one lane – by eco-fanatics – and I counted just three cyclists using the new cycle lane in two hours of observation.
    We live in an exceptionally clean, unpolluted country – and there is absolutely no need for restrictions on traffic, on air travel, or anything else.. ever..
    The eco-fanatics are tiny minority, of shouty, screaming activists, well organised liars and cheats. We must not let them monopolise policy – or they will soon destroy our beautiful city centres, and street economies.. ever.

  7. Tom Reply

    Marcus, out of interest I did a Google search for the National Physical Laboratory to see if I could see what they’ve been saying about emissions till they’re ‘blue in the face’ and this is their first paragraph:

    “Pollution is responsible for an estimated 29,000 premature deaths in the UK per year, reductions in lifespan for vulnerable city dwellers of up to nine years and increased health costs of ~£20 billion a year in the UK alone”

    So not at all what you said. Why cruise the internet writing rubbish?

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