York’s air quality improves by 30 per cent during lockdown

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New data has revealed that York’s air pollution has significantly reduced during the Coronavirus lockdown.

According to the Defra clean air strategy 2019, a number of deaths and life-long health problems are caused ever year, as a result of poor air quality.

One of the UK’s leading experts in air quality, Dr David Carslaw, who has over 20 years’ experience in air pollution science, and lives in York,  has analysed data collected by City of York Council as part of his ongoing research here: https://ee.ricardo.com/news/analysis-of-covid-19-lockdown-on-uk-local-air-pollution

The analysis shows improvements in air quality (nitrogen dioxide concentrations), compared to ‘business as usual’ figures, for specific areas of York, where the council undertakes regular air quality monitoring, including:

  • Fishergate: a reduction of 43 per cent
  • Fulford Road: a reduction of 28 per cent
  • Gillygate: a reduction of 29 per cent
  • Heworth Green: a reduction of 27 per cent
  • Holgate Road: a reduction of 32 per cent
  • Nunnery Lane: a reduction of 38 per cent
  • Lawrence Street: a reduction of 29 per cent
  • Bootham: a reduction of 16 per cent

Average nitrogen dioxide reduction across all York sites = 30 per cent

Cllr Paula Widdowson, the council’s executive member for the environment and climate change, said: “We all have a responsibility to improve York’s air quality and this is an issue we have prioritised here in York, from launching the UK’s first voluntary Clean Air Zone, to investing in electric charging points across the city.

“Of course, the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown has had a significant impact on air quality in the city, as many have stuck to the Government’s social distancing guidance.  However, the council has invested in a number of measures in recent years to help improve air quality in York, and we will continue to do so for the benefit of our communities.”

David Carslaw, a Reader in Air Pollution from the Department of Chemistry at the University of York said: “There has been widespread coverage of how air pollution has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The satellite measurements sourced have been especially compelling, showing the before and after situation for many of the world’s cities. We do of course have hundreds of ground-based continuous air pollution monitors across the UK that can also be investigated to better understand the changes in air pollution at a local level.

“This analysis is a first look at some potential changes in air pollution due to COVID-19. As more data becomes available, the robustness of these estimated changes should increase. However, it is already clear that there has been a dramatic and mostly consistent decrease in poor air quality (NOx) across a wide range of sites, including York.”

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, executive member for transport, said: “This highlights the benefits of traffic reduction and that our new local transport plan will seek to maintain lower traffic levels and more attractive conditions for walking cycling and public transport.”

Over recent years, the council has introduced a number of measures to tackle poor air quality in the city, including:

  • Launching a city wide campaign to encourage drivers to stop idling in their vehicles www.york.gov.uk/engineoff
  • Introduced electric buses on Park&Ride services at Poppleton Bar (2014) and Monk’s Cross (2015). An additional 21 electric double deck buses will shortly be introduced on the Park&Ride network
  • Launched a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for buses (introduced 31 Jan 2020) and helped 5 bus operators to replace/retrofit 93 buses to CAZ compliant vehicles
  • Retrofitted the world’s first fleet of electric double-decker sightseeing buses
  • Encouraged 20 per cent of the city’s taxis to change to low emission alternatives and specified minimum emission standards for new or replacement taxis
  • Implemented a ‘pay as you go’ fast-charge public electric vehicle recharging network consisting of 20 ‘fast’ double headed charge points (40 sockets) in addition to 5 publicly accessible rapid chargers across the city
  • As Yorkshire’s sole authority to win ‘Go Ultra Low’ city status, we’ve been awarded £816,000 from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles to fund a network of ultra-fast electrical charging ‘hyper hubs’
  • Developed low emission planning guidance which requires electric vehicle recharge infrastructure, Construction Environmental Management Plans (CEMPs) and emission mitigation plans on new developments.

Debbie Manson