Pollution, cars and streets

The Acorn Road planning group heard an excellent presentation on traffic emissions and air quality by Professor Margaret Bell CBE, Newcastle University, on 18 July 2013 at Jesmond Legion.


• a sustainable future rests with ‘doing things differently’
• a substantial reduction in vehicle kilometres driven is essential
• spatial and transport planning is key as journeys can be kept short, green and healthy

Some key points of the talk:

• UK has a binding target to reduce CO2 by 67% by 2010 over 2010 level, and to meet air quality objectives for NO2 and PM10 (Newcastle context: carbon emissions to be reduced by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020)

• currently many set targets are not being met and data might be ‘complex’

• emissions are highest in Newcastle at Haymarket bus station where there is much pedestrian activity (and often empty buses driving in)

• 50,000 deaths were accelerated by poor air quality in 2010 in UK

• air pollution is a silent secret killer – smog for example used to be highly visible but due to composition changes in pollutants it is now invisible

• traffic volume and congestion is the main cause of carbon emissions and is damaging both health and the economy, providing for walking and cycling is a win-win

• poor driver behaviour (eg over-revving and sloppy gear changing) is more polluting but is not considered in standard EURO emissions testing when rating cars

• sustainable future rests with doing things differently – policies need to be integrated across sectors and involve food and food production, waste, energy supply and demand

• ‘home working’ may generate more carbon emissions than it saves through reduced travel