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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Air pollution - comparing London and Paris

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. OK this post includes a little mention of Paris (reached by train) but it's mostly about what's got to be done to clean up our cities which are being so polluted by diesel. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Nicola with her daughter in Paris. We drank coffee and talked air pollution.
My 18 year old daughter has moved to Paris, so just occasionally I visit. In August I noticed that it felt much more polluted than my bit of London. It's less green than London, but it is also smaller. When you blew your nose unspeakable blackness appeared.

In October and December my daughter would What's App to say that Paris was so polluted today that it was free to use the metro.

Houses, pedestrians, diesel buses all mixed up in London - the result is poor
air quality that's actually killing people early.
So I was surprised to learn that London busted it's annual air pollution limits in just five days - FIVE - into the new year on 5 January 2017.  You can read all about it in this Guardian report here.
"By law, hourly levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide must not be more than 200 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) more than 18 times in a whole year, but late on Thursday this limit was broken on Brixton Road in Lambeth."
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from diesel engines (including buses, vans and idling diesel cars).
Air pollution is known to cause nearly 6,000 early deaths in London. It's now also thought that people who live close to busy roads are more likely to develop Alzheimer's.

Just to be clear that's not five normal days of traffic - it's five days that actually includes a new year's day Sunday (1st) and a bank holiday Monday (2nd). When London's air is so toxic it seems amazing that we're not all screaming to sort it out. I think London's Mayor Sadiq Khan is on it - but rumours of low-emission zone bus routes doesn't sound like enough for this silent killer.

Meanwhile in Paris the mayor, Anne Hildago, has promised to ban diesel vehicles (by 2025 along with Athens, Madrid and Mexico City) and now, in January, she has promised to halve the number of private cars in the city and keep roads along the Seine closed. An electric tramway is also planned.

Paris is in a strange state at the moment - there are emergency powers in place which makes change, perhaps, a little easier. Closing roads might help reduce the likelihood of runaway lorries through busy thoroughfares. It will also make Paris a very much less polluted city. Win. Win.

I've not had a car in London since my early 20s. I've managed to raise two children without one and saved £1000s of pounds in rental/purchase fees, maintenance, insurance, parking, fuel (petrol!) and fines (obligatory in London's congested city). That doesn't prove much, but it's not been a sacrifice, it's been a boost to the whole family's quality of life: all of us know our way around on foot well, and are possibly fitter and slimmer than our car-owning contemporaries. The one drawback is the air pollution. It gets us all, however little we've contributed to the toxic mess.

CAPTION: Russell Selway at Cycle Surgery Highbury: “I hate working on Holloway Road: the air pollution is horrendous. If you go into the shop you can see the packaging gets covered with dust and dirt by the end of every day. We clean it off every day (see photo of boxes). But the dirt and grime means we can’t sell white clothing in the shop because it doesn’t stay clean long enough.The noise is horrendous too. You can never hear anything on the phone because sirens are going all the time… It’s police and ambulances through the red light. And there are the buses. The stuff they chuck out is horrendous! Never warm up behind a bus… I think diesel should be banned." THIS IS AN EXTRACT FROM AN INTERVIEW PUBLISHED ON ISLINGTON FACES, READ IT HERE.
What next?
This year I'm going to be putting a bit more energy into calling out the nonsense I see about air pollution and cars. For instance when you hear the air is polluted, it doesn't mean the kids shouldn't play out. It means you need to radically rethink how and where you drive. Everyone loves their cars, and always has a reason to be on the roads. But this pretence that "my journey is more important than your journey" really has to stop. Let 2017 be the year that happens. Good luck to all those campaigning on air quality wherever you are in the world.
If you'd like to read more about cars, have a look at my first book THE ESTATE WE'RE IN: who's driving car culture published back in 1998. It's still available as an ebook.
Over to you
What do you do to reduce air pollution? What should government do? What needs to be thought about carefully? Or is any action more important for everyone's health?

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