CYCLING campaigners have called on the Town Hall to take immediate steps to reduce motor traffic in a bid to combat “illegal” levels of air pollution.
Islington Cyclists’ Action Group (ICAG), which carried out research with the activist lawyer group ClientEarth in November of last year, has found that more than half of roads surveyed in the south of the borough had levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration far higher than considered safe. NO2, a constituent of exhaust emissions, is widely linked to respiratory and heart problems.
ICAG installed diffusion tubes on 30 lampposts across the south of the borough. The tubes were analysed by scientists at University College London who found that pollution is at its worse in the south of the borough, especially in busy roads such as Clerkenwell Road and Old Street.
The campaigners say that filtering motoring traffic at key places would improve air quality and road safety.
Andrea Casalotti, of ICAG, said: “We found that pollution is highest on arterial roads, around 60 per cent above the legal limit, and around 40 per cent higher in quieter roads that are used as rat-runs. If those are closed to motor traffic, the quality of life for people living in and walking and travelling through these roads would improve.”
Examples of the “rat run” roads Mr Casalotti suggested should be closed to cars and lorries include the southern end of St John Street and Lloyd Baker Street in Clerkenwell.
He added: “It is reckless that the council seeks to promote cycling on roads with illegal levels of air pollution.”
Green Party campaigner Ben Hickey told the Tribune: “I live on Clerkenwell Road, which has been measured to have NO2 concentration levels 50 per cent over the legal limit. I breathe that air in when I’m at home.
“The council, the Mayor and city planners must act now to reduce the traffic on these main roads. Surely it’s simpler and cheaper to prevent pollution-related illness through better traffic planning than to treat it?”
The cyclists’ call comes after the Supreme Court, the country’s highest legislative body, declared the UK’s levels of nitrogen-dioxide pollution a “danger to public health” last week.
The council, which last year secured £2million from Transport for London to improve cycling routes, said it is committed to improving air quality in Islington. A spokeswoman pointed to initiatives to cut emissions, including the introduction of a diesel surcharge to encourage a move to less-polluting vehicles, and said the authority is lobbying TfL to upgrade all buses that run through Islington to hybrid or zero-emission vehicles.
She added: “Closing roads limits the routes for resident drivers and other motorists and can increase traffic on other residential streets, but we are supporting other environmental improvements to major roads in the borough.”