Speed bump re-designs and lower speed limits may reduce air pollution

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Local councils are urged to redesign speed bumps and reduce speed limits in efforts to lower air pollution

According to a new study by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), ‘smooth’ driving can reduce toxic air pollution.

Air pollution has been linked to approximately 25,000 deaths a year in England alone and it affects more people living in urban areas – particularly children and the elderly.

Motor vehicle traffic is now at a record high

Data shows that motor traffic has reached a record high this year, increasing 1.4% from last year with over 320 billion vehicle miles having travelled on UK roads. The study from NICE explains that soot from vehicle brake linings, exhaust pipes and tyres, accompanied with nitrogen dioxide gas, cause severe damage to people’s health, such as increasing the risk of respiratory and heart diseases, as well as cancer.

Because of the deadly affects of air pollution, NICE is urging local councils to take action in the following ways:

  • Introduce more 20mph speed limits in busy residential areas
  • Create more charging points for electric cars
  • Train more drivers in how to drive more smoothly and efficiently
  • Re-design speed bumps so drivers are less inclined to speed up and slow down between them
  • Build the most commonly-used rooms in new homes further back from roads
  • Implement restrictions on engine idle outside of structures like schools and hospitals

Other suggestions include avoiding placing cycle lanes near or on highly polluted roads and using trees to screen cyclists from motor vehicles. The report also recommends that councils adopt multiple measures rather than just one to create a larger impact.

Chief executive of the London Sustainability Exchange, Samantha Heath, said that, “20% of emissions can be saved by smoother driving. This is the public health crisis of our generation.”

Speed bump re-design

The increase in speed humps across the country hasn’t been welcomed warmly by many motorist groups – particularly because they can cause damage to cars that speed over them.

But BBC environmentalist analyst Roger Harrabin explained, “There are other options, though. Councils could still install speed tables at junctions, rather than hums. These are longer than speed humps and flat-topped, so they raise the entire wheelbase of a vehicle.”

Unfortunately, although speed tables would be more effective, while also being vehicle-friendly, they’re considerably more expensive to install.

The Local Government Association, which represents English councils and some Welsh councils is open to NICE’s suggestions and recognises that air pollution is becoming a severe problem, however it’s hard to determine how to pay for it.

One spokesman explained, “There is a lot we could do if we had the funding but this is a national issue for government too. The reality is we have to pay for this today."

Earlier this year, Cardiff held its first ‘car free’ day to help bring awareness to the growing air pollution problem.

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