Thursday 11 January 2018

Fighting for air.

I watched a documentary on the television last night where a group of local people from Kings Heath in Birmingham set about to change the air pollution of their local high street.

Because of my vast age I can't help but be sceptical about anything I hear nowadays, but it was established that 40,000 people a year are killed by pollution, most of which seems to come from buses, lorries and diesel cars which wasn't a great surprise to me.

As is always the case with programmes like this there was a hard core of supporters for the total abolition of the motor car, which seemed odd as one of the main polluters was the bus.

Two of the main protagonists for the abolition of the motor car were a young lady architect who was filmed riding her bicycle and a local cafe owner filmed in his cafe.

I frequently wonder how people like this get around as you can't get that far on a bicycle and yet the young lady was later filmed in Walthamstow in East London, one assumes at no time did she use a taxi or any other form of motorised transport to complete her journey.

Both of these individuals were also much in favour of doing away with the parking bays which they felt held up the traffic causing pollution. Now obviously making it impossible to park in the high street, caused me to wonder exactly where the lorries or vans who may have been endeavouring to deliver goods to the young man's cafe would unload?

The presenter Dr Xand Van Tulleken stated that "diesel is the monster polluter of our roads," and personally I don't have any argument with that statement, except perhaps to wonder how the shops will have goods without lorries, how people will get around without buses and all the car drivers who were conned into buying diesel cars would get around too?

A specially equipped car was produced which was used to demonstrate that the most pollution was produced when the vehicle was accelerating, every time it was held up at a pedestrian traffic light, every time it slowed for a speed bump, it would then have to accelerate away causing pollution.

By some magic they managed to find a straight piece of road with no lights or bumps which amazingly enough caused no pollution as the car was travelling at a constant speed without having to continually slow down and then accelerate. 

They later went to a trendy part of Walthamstow where they had closed a local rat run from 10.00am to 10.00pm seven days a week and done away with any parking bays which left the place like a ghost town, although the local butcher maintained his business was doing fine but the antique shop said he was struggling.

I have to admit to being familiar with this area and used to use the pub at the end of the road before moving to the countryside and one Sunday as I was in the area decided to call in to the local pub to see if any of my old friends were still using the pub.

Unfortunately as there was nowhere to park anywhere near the pub or in the local streets I sadly gave up the idea of seeing my friends and came home, I suppose the fact that I was unable to park on a quiet Sunday afternoon must have made sense to some local planner, although I couldn't see the logic myself.

What people always seem to forget when they come up with some clever scheme to close a road is the fact that the traffic will not suddenly disappear, it will be using other roads to use a a cut through.

Back in Birmingham the planned day of action had arrived, all the parking bays were suspended monitors were placed to check for pollution, the traffic lights were synchronised to keep the traffic moving along with much publicity on the local radio station.

Finally the results were in, the traffic had remained at exactly the same level as usual, however pollution was down by 10% compared to the rest of the city, I did however think it might have been a fairer test to compare it with the same street on the previous day.

Pollution at the local school was considerably down as was the number of vehicles dropping the children which was an obvious reason for the lower result, quite how the children had magically got themselves to school was not explained.

So after all this, what conclusion can we draw from this test?  Yet again, the answer is not rocket science, if you keep the traffic moving as was achieved with the traffic light synchronisation it will produce less pollution. All you have to do then is replicate the system throughout the rest of Birmingham. 

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