London’s air pollution remains high but it is ok to drive

By Angela Lovely

Skyline view looking south from Primose Hill.

While the sun shone air pollution remained high.

While people enjoyed the sun on Saturday and many could be seen out running and cycling around Regent's Park the air pollution has remained at a very high level and is forecast to continue to at least Sunday. Health advice from the Department of Environment tells the general population to reduce strenuous activity and those with heart and lung problems and older people should avoid it. Yet neither central government nor the mayor of London has issued any advice for motorists not to use their cars. It seems on this lovely weekend it's a good thing to drive to Regent's Park, but not run or cycle around it.

Map showing pollution levels in central London.

Friday bulletin Marylebone Road shows a level of 10 and Russell Square 9, on a scale of 1 to 10. From London Air Quality Network.

The air monitoring stations at Marylebone Road and at Russell Square in Bloomsbury showed peak pollution levels of between 9 and 10 for Friday 23 March. The maximum level on the scale used is 10.

When I rang the free air pollution recorded information helpline on 0800 55 66 77 all the information was about avoiding physical activity if air pollution is very high. Nothing was said about taking responsibility for others health by avoiding using a private motor vehicle.

According to the London Air Quality Network:

In London the major source of pollution is from road transport, and thus strategies primarily involve either reducing the emissions of vehicles or reducing the number of vehicles.

Individual actions can have a direct impact on air pollution. Reducing energy use when at home, at work and travelling can not only cut emissions but also save you money.

But when I went to the Defra air quality website, there was plenty of information on pollution and avoiding exercise, yet nothing on avoiding adding to the pollution. The mayor of London is not asking people to avoid driving either. I can drive a Range Rover to Regent’s Park but I’d be very silly to cycle there, it seems.

Central London has the one of lowest levels of car ownership in the UK yet we live in one of its most polluted places. It is time health advice included: “avoid driving your car”.

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