Some of you with long memories might remember a blog written about how to reduce pollution in London through transportation interventions. Well, Paris is starting to show the UK up by using a simple measure to make a dramatic impact on pollution and other health benefits within the city. What is that I hear you cry……….. Very simple, the Parisian Mayor, Anne Hildago , banned vehicles from 30% of the streets in Paris. The impact was amazing and I am not just talking from a transport planners point of view but primarily from an atmospheric chemistry and secondarily from a customer experience point of view.
The bare facts are very simple; Airparif, which measures city pollution levels, indicated levels of nitrogen dioxide dropped by up to 40% in parts of the city with almost a one-third reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution on the busy Champs Elysee, along the Seine, in impacted areas, levels were down by about 40% and at the Place de l’Opera, there was almost a 20% drop. In terms of noise Bruitparif indicated sound levels dropped by almost 50% in the city centre.
Now, to you and me that might not mean much but to put these figures into context, Paris in the previous two weeks had levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) peaking at “very high”, according to Airparif. In the last year, the level of NO2 on the quai has regularly topped 100µg/m3 with an average of 66µg/m3 over the year – well above the EU limit of 40µg/m3. If the improved figures above were replicated over the year Paris would start to be able to hit the EU targets.
This would essentially mean you could walk round Paris, hear yourself talk, not breathe in smog, actually see the Eiffel Tower and even consider crossing the Champs Elysee, the Place de la Concorde or the Arc de Triomphe without taking your life in your own hands and running like an Olympic sprinter.
This resonated with me as the last time I was in London I was at the top of St Paul’s and there was a lovely haze over London, not caused by the heat, I was struggling to breathe after walking for an hour and crossing the road at Westminster required either waiting a long time for car based traffic signals or closing my eyes and running. Wouldn’t it be so pleasant to be able to do achieve what Paris has done and reclaim the streets for non-motorised modes for a few pleasant hours.
Never mind the atmospheric benefits from closing the streets, millions were on the Champs Elysee, walking about, crossing the street, wandering into shops and not having to worry about getting knocked down if they wanted to cross the street to buy the latest fashion item. Whilst no figures have been released yet I would be very surprised if this did not create some form of economic benefit for the traders.
Now, reality, on the same day in Knightsbridge the NO2 level were 134 µg/m3, according to Kings College. The UK and in particular London has a problem, let’s see the mayoral candidates grab the bull by the horns and start to follow Paris and other cities and implement measures which reduce the impact of polluting vehicles, spend money improving infrastructure for non-motorised modes and use carrots and sticks (see previous blog) to make people realise the impact their decisions have.
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