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Air pollution

What we say

Walking is great for your health, but air pollution is putting the public at risk. 

The two pollutants of most concern are microscopic airborne particles, known as particulate matter (PM), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). 

There is no safe level of particulate matter and the UK Government is breaking the law with current levels of air pollution. People who walk or cycle do not contribute to air pollution, but are unfairly exposed to it.

Living Streets fully endorses the NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) quality standard on outdoor air quality and health.

What we want

We want the Government to take action on diesel exhausts in our towns and cities and to invest more in walking and cycling. We are also calling for a new Clean Air Act. The first act was introduced to deal with coal fire smog in 1956. We now need new legislation.

Watch our air pollution animation

What you can do

1. Become a member

Everything Living Streets has achieved in over 90 years has been thanks to its members.

Become a member today to help us make the case for investing in and prioritising walking. 

An image of two people smiling into the camera


A number of areas across the country are, or soon will be, asking people to give feedback on their plans to tackle air pollution. This is a key opportunity for Living Streets groups and supporters to push your local authorities to do more to effectively tackle air pollution, and to promote the importance of walking as the natural choice for short journeys.

Our how-to guide outlines Living Streets' position on the main issues, such as the importance of charging Clean Air Zones, and provides ideas local authorities can take up, for example a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL). It gives you text that you can combine with your own local knowledge to submit a strong consultation response.

Did you know?


Proportion of toxic nitrogen oxide concentrations found at roadside comes from motor traffic, especially diesel vehicles.


Premature deaths each year in the UK are attributable to air pollution. 


UK zones that exceeded legal levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions in 2013.


Wouldn't I be safer from air pollution in the car?

Studies show that levels of air pollution are broadly similar inside and outside of cars and may be higher for vehicles stuck in traffic. Results vary from one study to another, but demonstrate that the car does not offer protection from air pollution. If you are on foot you get the added health benefits from walking, which outweigh any negative effects of air pollution. 

Won't electric cars solve this problem?

Electric cars are far from commonplace and do nothing to reduce the number of vehicles on the road which causes congestion and the worst cases of air pollution. We need to take action now to reduce illegal air pollution levels. The quickest, most effective and sustainable way to do this is to encourage more walking journeys.

Would changing where I walk reduce my exposure to air pollution?

We believe everyone has the right to walk along the most direct route to their destination without fear of air pollution. However, studies have shown that walking further away from the kerb and using alternative routes (such as a block away from the most polluted roads) will reduce exposure to air pollution.