Glasgow transport plans must step up to deliver clean air

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As a public consultation on transport plans for Glasgow’s city centre closes this Saturday, campaign group Friends of the Earth Scotland is warning that the plans do not go far enough to fix the city’s air pollution problems.

The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide, 7 million people die prematurely each year due to exposure to air pollution. In April this year official government statistics were published that showed fine particles alone are responsible for over 300 deaths each year in Glasgow. The city is the most polluted city in Scotland, and the Council has admitted that across the city pollution levels are breaking Scottish standards.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has dubbed air pollution Scotland’s “silent killer”.  Traffic is the key cause of Glasgow’s air pollution.  A reduction in traffic and tougher vehicle emissions standards are needed to improve public health and increase life expectancy.

Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said,

“Glasgow’s air is poisoned with chemicals and particles. Today’s pollution is invisible and dangerous, causing asthma, strokes, heart attacks, cancer, and shortening life expectancy. But people don’t have a choice over what they breathe in, air pollution is forced upon us.

“Everyone knows that traffic is the main cause of Glasgow’s toxic air, but the new transport plans skirt around the issue of air pollution. There are good plans to introduce new cycle routes and tree-lined Avenues, and these measures are small steps in the right direction. But it will take much more than small steps to deal with what is now a major health crisis. The City Council must take bold strides to tackle air pollution head on by dealing with traffic levels and dirty vehicle emissions. The final version of the City Centre Transport Strategy needs to commit to reducing traffic levels and moving forward with a Low Emission Zone.  Tough action on traffic levels would make the city centre a much more pleasant place to live, work and visit, as well as saving lives.

“The time to act on air pollution is now. Glasgow is named in two separate legal actions for failing to reduce levels of air pollution, and 300 people each year die from exposure to air pollution, so there is a moral and legal imperative to act.”

Key positive parts of the City Centre Transport Strategy include:
– The creation of Avenues, i.e. tree-lined roads with wider pavements and separate segregated cycle routes;
– A network of cycle routes across the city centre;
– A 20 mph zone across the city;
– New bus gates, including one between Nelson Mandela Place and George Square.

Air pollution worsens asthma, increases the chances of having a stroke or heart attack and has been named by the World Health Organisation as the world’s leading cause of cancer deaths. In February this year, the European Commission commenced legal action against the UK for failing to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide levels to within binding legal limits in several UK cities including Glasgow.