More on Air Pollution from the BBC and Closure of Beech Street

The latest piece of air pollution propaganda from the BBC was a television report that air pollution may affect your brain. This was based on a recently published Chinese study that long-term exposure to air pollution “could be linked to cognitive performance” (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45326598 for the written version of the BBC’s report).

As is common with air pollution studies, this is based on an epidemiological study that showed that people who have lived in heavily polluted areas for a long time show less cognitive function on simple tests of math and verbal skills. It also suggests that there are differences in the impact between sex, age and education of the study participants which seems unexpected but they explain that as being affecting mostly men who have worked outside for long periods. The study was done in China where air pollution is of course a serious problem – for example Beijing has much worse air pollution that western cities such as London. The paper was published by the US National Academy of Sciences.

There is of course no evidence linking the possible causes to the effect and it could simply be that the selected participants suffer from the work they did, or the lack of mental exercise they took (cognitive functions decline if not used).

In summary, the scientific paper is just that and it is wrong to extrapolate it to suggest people in London or other cities are likely to be affected. Or is the report explained by BBC reporters spending too much time standing on College Green near Parliament Square, where they like to do interviews, and breathing in too much hot air? It certainly seems to be the case that talking about air pollution too much damages your brain.

Beech Street Closure

The City of London Corporation is still keen to tackle the problem of air pollution in Beech Street – this is the road that runs underneath the Barbican in a tunnel and is a key east-west route within the City. The only other alternative routes are via Old Street or City Wall which are both heavily congested. But Beech Street is one of the most heavily polluted roads in London for NOX emissions.

There are several options being considered. That includes restricting the road to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) only, closing the road in both directions (but leaving access to the Barbican car parks) or just closing in the East-West or West-East directions. Traffic modelling of the possible closures is being considered but it would require building a large new model of traffic flows.

But the impact of a full closure is already known because in March 2018 the road was closed for 5 days. Average journey times on the roads north and south of Beech Street increased by 23%.

The report on this subject which is being considered by Corporation Committees in early September notes the likely objections from many City business and residents to any closure though.

Comment: It would be unfortunate if yet another key road in the City is closed to traffic. The road network in the City of London has been degraded substantially in recent years by road closures such as that of Bank Junction. Could the air pollution in Beech Street not be tackled by a forced ventilation system? But there is no mention of that being considered in the Corporation’s report.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

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How the Mayor Spends Your Money

An interesting report was recently published by the City of London Corporation on how they plan to spend a £1 million grant from the Mayor of London for a Low Emission Neighbourhood scheme (LEN). This was a figure (£990,000 to be exact) to be spent over three years and although some minor projects have been delivered it seems that the intended “transformational” scope is missing and that the money needs to be spent in the 2018-19 financial year or it will be lost.

As a result two schemes have been put forward: 1) for a Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) restriction on Moor Lane in the City; and 2) for a similar restriction on Beech Street. Beech Street runs east/west underneath the Barbican like a tunnel and is a particularly poor location for air quality as a result.

But it looks like only a Moor Lane ULEV scheme will be delivered in 2019 using the LEN funding. The air pollution benefit may be relatively low but it will enable the impact of such schemes to be measured, particularly as they affect taxi drivers who are some of the more common users of that road. It will also encourage taxi owners to upgrade to newer zero emission capable vehicles.

The Beech Street proposals will be phased but if found to be viable will ultimately be restricted to west-bound only ULEV vehicles. Funding for this will apparently come from later schemes and might be delivered in 2021.

Comment: Moor Lane is a very minor part of the City road network and it would seem likely that air pollution there not just arises from vehicles on the street itself but is blown in from the surrounding area. It may be a good location for an experimental ULEV scheme but it’s a huge amount of money for a scheme that will probably have relatively little impact on air pollution. Beech Street would have a much bigger impact but would seriously affect traffic in the City as it is one of the key routes. No doubt that is the reason for deferring that scheme. But there seems to have been no consideration of the impact on the residents of the Barbican who have car parking provision in underground car parks and would be affected by the closure of Beech Street (partial or otherwise).

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Traffic in the City of London, and Beech Street

The City of London Corporation has recently published a report entitled “Traffic in the City of London”. It acknowledges that “certain major infrastructure project such as Crossrail and the Cycle Superhighway” along with new building development have increased demand on the highway network. As a result traffic congestion in some parts of the City has increased.

Their solutions include “reducing the amount of traffic in the City to a level our community finds acceptable”, making representations for London wide policy change (e.g. changes to the Congestion Charge, which would include higher charges and wider geographic coverage) and reducing goods vehicle movements. They also propose to “actively discourage vehicle movements”.

In addition they suggest bridge tolls over all the Thames bridges using ANPR technology as on the Dartford Crossing to reduce traffic volumes and more active management by TfL of traffic signals to reduce traffic into the City.

Zero Emission Vehicles Only and Beech Street

They also suggest a ban of all vehicles in the City other than zero emission ones and have already firmed up proposals to do that for Beech Street, or close it completely to through traffic. Beech Street runs underneath the Barbican and is heavily used as a cross-city route.

The City Corporation’s report is well worth reading and is a good example of the anti road transport mentality that is now so prevalent.

Roger Lawson