When walking increase, emissions decrease

As experts prove the difference in air quality when Oxford Street is closed to traffic for just one day, the pedestrianisation of London's most iconic shopping street cannot come soon enough.

On 6 November, Oxford Street was closed to vehicles to allow crowds to gather to watch R&B singer Craig David turn on the Christmas lights.

It was all great fun as usual, but for scientists from King's College there was serious work in hand.

The closure to traffic was a great chance to demonstrate the difference in air quality - and in particular levels of deadly nitrogen dioxide (NO
2
) - after this world-famous and mostly bus-lined street was pedestrianised for just one day.

Coming just days after our friends Client Earth won a High court ruling that the UK government is not doing enough to tackle air pollution, this was timely.

And the results were undeniable.

People walking

31%

The fall in levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air around Oxford Street after the street was closed to traffic for just a few hours.

What this means

Exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide causes heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancer, and is currently responsible for over 9,500 people in London dying prematurely.

"Clearly Sunday’s closure of Oxford Street led to a big improvement in air pollution for the shoppers," says Dr Gary Fuller from the King's College team.

In demonstrating the change in pollution levels, the scientists have not merely provided further impetus for the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street alone, though. After all, as Dr Fuller adds, the levels did not reach zero.

“There was still traffic on the surrounding roads. This shows that solving London’s air pollution hotspots requires action over a wide area,” said Dr Gary Fuller.

And as Client Earth's case shows, the failure to tackle dangerous pollution levels is a nationwide problem - and people's lives depend on us finding a solution.

This is why our campaign to make Oxford Street one of the world's great public spaces does not end with the pedestrianisation that London's Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged by 2020.

It is about more than paving and redirecting bus routes. It is about putting people at the heart of Oxford Street and re-engineering how the whole area around it works.

It is about setting the standard for a walking city.

"Oxford Street is Europe’s busiest retail street but also frequently breaches legal limits for NO2. These latest findings show how much we stand to gain by making it vehicle-free, improving our air quality and health."

Joe Irvin, Living Streets CEO

 

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