New Year, new you… and potentially, a new London.
The season of resolutions is upon us, and while the usual promises to exercise more, eat better and spend less will undoubtedly top the list of changes we all try to make, there is something else we could work towards that’ll benefit everyone.
It’s time to act
Sustainability is not only big news – it’s the future. And for the sake of London and the health of its residents we need to all do our bit and take action to help tackle the city’s biggest environmental issue: air pollution.
Every day, 5.8 million car journeys are made throughout the capital, filling the air we breathe with harmful nitrogen dioxide, and even small particulates such as tiny bits of metal and rubber.
In fact, the sheer scale of London’s traffic makes its road transport the single biggest contributor to the air quality crisis. Two million Londoners live in areas that exceed legal limits – 400,000 of whom are children – and they all have an increased risk of asthma, lung disease, cancer and even premature death. Millions of commuters are also exposed to illegal levels of pollution, either at work or on their commute.
The answer to dealing with this problem is to cut down on our use of cars and heavily polluting vehicles, and switch to cleaner ways to get around.
And, actually, these alternative ways of travelling could help with your dreams of a better, healthier you, too.
Did you know?
Another way you can control your emissions is by driving an electric car. There are now over 200 rapid charge points throughout London, which enable you to charge your battery within 20-30 minutes and travel greener easier.
One quick, reliable and cheap means of getting about in the city is to cycle.
Cycling is a low-impact method of exercise, which means it isn’t hard on the joints, and it gives your whole body a workout too. Doing small trips, such as popping round to see a friend, by bike could mean shedding unwanted pounds while saving a few bob in fuel money, too.
Not only that, but it’s completely emissions free. So, whether you have your own bicycle or make use of London’s Santander Cycles, you can rest assured that you’re not contributing to the pollutants in the air we breathe.
It’s also safer than ever before to take up cycling in the capital, thanks to TfL’s new Cycleways. These new cycle paths have added over 60 miles of protected cycle lanes in London, and some wind through quieter, more scenic areas, so you can travel without car traffic and enjoy some great views, too.
If cycling’s not your game, walking or running to the shop is another option. Giving up your car ride for a run will help to reduce London’s air pollution and clear your head for whatever the day ahead has to bring.
Of course, there are times when travelling on foot just won’t cut it – but you can still make smart decisions that will get you from A to B without causing as much damage to our environment.
Taking the bus, for example, is now a greener option than driving your own car in London.
There are now 7,900 greener buses in London, as well as 12 low-emission bus zones. In fact, London now has the largest electric bus fleet in Europe. Suddenly, getting the bus has become so much more appealing.
Hailing a taxi is becoming a greener option as well. All new licensed cabs in the city must be zero-emissions capable, and there are now 2,800 of them on our roads.
A greener future
Since the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in April, it has reduced the number of highly polluting vehicles by up to 38 per cent every day. Analysis shows levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide in the central zone are now one third lower than they would have been without the scheme.
And all the rest
Living more sustainably isn’t just about our day-to-day travel. While swapping that trip and walking or using public transport every day will help to improve London’s air quality, there are a few other habits you can do, too.
Take online shopping, for example. There’s no denying the convenience of clicking a button and having your goodies delivered to your door, but the effect this has on a grander scale in London is quite shocking.
More than 500 million parcels are delivered in the capital every year, equating to 281,000 freight vehicle journeys – that’s 30 per cent of London’s road transport.
So, why not make a New Year’s resolution to walk to your local high street more often to find bargains rather than driving or ordering online? It could help make a difference to our air.
Alternatively, rather than having things sent to your house, opt for Click & Collect so you’re not encouraging more vehicles to drive on our roads.
Together, we can help make London a cleaner and healthier place to live this year.
Do your bit!
Find out more and sign up for tips and inspiration to keep you motivated at tfl.gov.uk/air-quality