London marathon demonstrates positive impact of taking cars off the road

Photo: Frank Augstein/AP

 

We recently wrote about the London Marathon’s commitment to sustainability by issuing runners electrolyte water contained in edible seaweed pouches. But avoiding plastic pollution wasn’t the only environmental achievement from the marathon’s organizers, it turns out air pollution along the marathon route dropped significantly and almost instantly during the event after vehicles were temporarily taken off the roads. As Forbes explained, “After race day – and the return of motor vehicles – the foul air also returned. Using air quality data collected by monitoring stations managed by Kings College London, the campaign group Global Action Plan found that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide along Upper Thames Street dropped by 89% compared to the previous three Sundays in April.”

This isn’t the only UK event that was found to experience a drop in pollution levels after a temporary car ban. Forbes also noted that “air-quality monitoring equipment picked up a massive drop in noxious air when cyclists took over from cars on a five-mile circuit in Newcastle city center in the north east of England last year.”

Air quality in London can get so bad that officials issue warnings urging residents to avoid activities outdoors–which is really unfortunate for a city with as much outdoor recreation as London.

Why This Matters: The UK like many nations is struggling with dangerous levels of air pollution throughout its cities which can endanger the health of its citizens. As we wrote last week, in the United States it was recently revealed that 40% of Americans live in a county with unhealthy air so we’re facing very similar conditions. While some British innovators have gone as far as to create “bionic leaves” to filter air pollution, it seems like one of the best ways to do this is to limit the number of internal combustion engines on the road and then to work on better ride sharing/public transit options as technology progresses much like Los Angeles is aiming to do. London has already implemented the world’s first 24-hour Ultra Low Emissions Zones earlier this month where drivers of older and more polluting cars face paying a new £12.50 fee adding to the Congestion Charge to enter the center of the city. People around the world are choking on exhaust smoke and the more innovative policies we can create to decrease air pollution from cars, the better they can be replicated around the world to ensure no person is stuck breathing in toxic air.

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