Air Clean Up

  • Does Congestion Increase Pollution?

Does Congestion Increase Pollution?

Feb 28 2018 Read 1263 Times

Unsurprisingly, areas which experience a higher volume of traffic invariably suffer from poorer levels of air quality. It’s for this reason that London regularly falls afoul of EU regulations on air pollution and other urban centres around the UK are similarly plagued with contaminated airwaves.

While it might seem intuitive that a resting or slow-moving car produces less pollution than a speeding one, the inverse is actually true. Parts of town which are prone to traffic pile-ups and heavy congestion are likely to suffer from far worse air quality than those by the side of a major motorway, for example.

Congestion the culprit

One study has shown that emissions increase when a car travels below 45mph and above 65mph – so the so-called golden zone of fuel consumption and emissions reduction is between 45mph and 65mph. Obviously, minimising congestion would allow more vehicles to travel at the optimum speed and thus emit fewer contaminants into the air.

This is because vehicles emit more pollutants when accelerating up to speed than they do when travelling at a steady velocity. It’s for this reason that speed bumps have been targeted by town planners and government ministers who are looking for ways in which they can encourage drivers to maintain a constant speed, rather than indulge in excessive braking and accelerating.

A multi-pronged approach

While the removal of speed bumps might go some way to improving air quality and reducing transport-related pollution, what’s really needed is a holistic approach from both the authorities and the individual in cleaning up our airwaves. Greater use of public transport, perhaps incentivised by the government, would reduce the number of vehicles on the road and their attendant emissions.

Meanwhile, a switch from more polluting models to newer, cleaner electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid cars will also work to diminish emissions from car exhausts, and again the government can encourage consumers to do so by introducing congestion charges and subsidising EVs. By working collectively and individually, we can reduce our impact not only on the environment, but also on our wallet, as well.

The economic impact

A new study from traffic data specialists Inrix found that the UK is among the top ten congested countries in the world, while London is second only to Moscow in Europe. After analysing both the direct and indirect costs of congestion in 111 cities across Britain, Inrix concluded that £37.7 billion was spent on the issue by Britons last year. That’s an average of £1,168 per driver.

With British drivers wasting an average of 31 hours stuck in traffic jams in 2017, there is clearly room for improvement up and down the country. Fortunately there was good news north of the border, as Scottish cities Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh reduced congestion by 20%, 15% and 10% respectively from the previous year.

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