Steptember

In August, the wonderful Mums for Lungs asked me to pledge towards their Steptember campaign. I already walk when I can, so I thought I’d pledge to leave the car behind for the school run as well.

I failed miserably. The truth is I am a working parent and rely on my car to get my son to school and me to work on time. Not to mention rushing back home to feed our puppy at lunchtimes! In other words, leaving the car at home would’ve been really inconvenient for us as a family.

There are many reasons that Leeds has bad air quality, this includes lack of affordable, reliable, well-connected and convenient public transport. The roads are not safe for cyclists and schools are oversubscribed so families aren’t always within walking distance. This is why so many people choose to drive around the city as the alternatives are not attractive ones.

Personally I drive an electric car so there is no emissions, but it’s still contributing to congestion and particulate matter. I would love an electric bike to help me up the hills, but the cost is prohibitive.

It’s no wonder we have air pollution!

However, I am really looking forward to car free day tomorrow (22/09/19). The wonderful Air Team have sent me a rainbow pack to make the event even more fun, so look out for pictures on social media.

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Clean Air Zone – second phase

Two days before National Clean Air Day, Leeds City Council have announced their revised clean air zone plans. Subject to ratification by the executive board next week, the plans will go to the second phase of public consultation.
 
We’re glad to hear of the enforcement of anti-idling, however it’s very disappointing that the boundaries have been reduced and charges lowered. There is still no incentive for commuters and visitors to leave their cars at home.
 
If you’d like to have your say on the matter join us at our meeting on the 4th July to input into our consultation feedback.
You can read the Council’s statement on their website.
Leeds CAZ consultation response

Leeds CAZ consultation response

Since Leeds City Council announced their Clean Air Zone consultation back in December 2017, we as a group have been thrashing out our response to it. It was a lengthy process as there is so much that needs to be done to bring our air quality to a healthy level in Leeds.

Our comprehensive response can be summarised by the following bullet points:

  1. We urge the Council to commit to introducing a CAZ D by 2020.
  2. That the Council commission a broader evidence-base to support their proposals, as well as lobbying DEFRA to accept a more pluralist analysis.
  3. That the Council lobby Central Government to increase investment into the National Clean Air Fund to help local councils take bolder measures and offer adequate support packages to the 64,000 vehicles impacted by a CAZ D.
  4. Push Central Government to start a Diesel Scrappage scheme by early 2019
  5. Increase Investment in Public and Active transport infrastructure.
  6. Improve Public Awareness of Threats to Air Quality, and their Health Consequences
  7. Reduce the need to travel through nudge techniques, integrated land use and transport planning, and other measures.
  8. Implement a Workplace Parking Levy Charge.
  9. Increase fees for long-stay parking, increase resident parking permits to 1 mile outside the inner ring road, reduce parking allowance for new developments.
  10. Charge diesel powered transport refrigeration units.
  11. Enforce Rule 123 of the Highway Code (No Idling).

You can also read our full response here: HAL CAZ consultation Response.

The consultation closes on March 2nd and we look forward to hearing what the council will implement as soon as possible.

An electric experience

An electric experience

I noticed a post on Facebook from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op asking for bloggers to review one of their commuter e-bikes. Perfect I thought, not only have I wanted to try one for a while, it is also something that I think could be a game changer for air quality in Leeds.

Electric battery powered bicycles are great for commuting short to medium distances as they take the effort out of cycling. They are also obviously better for your health and the environment than driving.

To give a little context, I moved to Leeds in 2001, an avid cyclist used to the relatively flat roads and lanes of Hertfordshire. My first uphill bike ride in Leeds put me off so much that I gave my bike away! Flash forward a few years to living in Armley where I got myself another bike and would happily ride into town along the canal path, but then suffer getting back up the hill to my house from the canal. Again, I gave up. Now I live in Meanwood and hardly ever cycle because I suffer from joint pain and can’t handle the hills in and around North Leeds.

So after a very informative chat with Graham Shortt, manager of the Leeds Branch in Chapel Allerton, I chose to borrow a Kalkhoff Jubilee Excite i7 commuter e-bike.

When I arrived to collect it a week later it suddenly dawned on me that I couldn’t think of a way of cycling home that avoided crossing a dual carriage way. The guys in the shop offered me a few options and I set off nervously down the road. The Jubilee has 3 power settings and I stuck with the most powerful one, which kicked in instantly. The bike was comfortable as I was in an upright position, but the weather and roads were not so great.

The day after collection I went out for a dummy run of my commute from Meanwood to Leeds Uni via Headingley. Getting up Grove Lane was a breeze, I even managed to do 16mph with the wind behind me. (Something I’d never manage on my old bike.) However, cycling through the tight sections of Otley road made me nervous as there wasn’t enough room for vehicles to overtake me safely. I made it to work in 15 mins, halving my normal walking time. I chose to ride home through Little London and Woodhouse which was much quicker but had many pot holes to contend with along Meanwood Road.

My final day of the e-bike trial was not great as the battery died with no warning as I was half way up a steep hill. This jolted me off the saddle and forced me to push the bike the rest of the way to work as it’s way too heavy to cycle without power assistance. I didn’t think to check the battery life as I’d only done about 6 miles up until this point so I don’t know if it was my fault or perhaps it was because it was bitterly cold. Either way it was annoying. Thankfully it only took a few hours to completely recharge the battery before returning the Kahlkoff to the shop. This time I had to contend with crossing Scott Hall Road at Sheepscar. I honestly couldn’t figure out a safe and convenient way of doing this, so I zig-zagged my way to the pot hole filled Chapel Town Road via various pedestrian crossings. By the time I arrived at the shop the shutters were down and I was nearly in tears! Thankfully the friendly sales assistants let me in and took the back bike off me.

In short, e-bikes are great as long as you keep them charged up, but commuting by bike in North Leeds is horrible. To this end, HAL will continue to campaign for improved cycling routes across the city to ease congestion and decrease air pollution. Until then, it’s hard to expect people to take up cycling when the infrastructure isn’t there to support them.

If you’re braver than me or live in a part of Leeds that is better served with cycle lanes, then take a look at the other electric bikes that Edinburgh bikes have to offer.

Rachel

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Healthy Air Leeds is approaching its first birthday and we have achieved a lot in our first year including…

  • Appearances on Sky News, BBC Look North, BBC Radio Leeds, Made in Leeds TV and Radio Aire
  • Taking part in National Clean Air Day
  • Various meetings with local councillors and campaign partners
  • Holding information stalls in Headingley and at summer events
  • Becoming joint winners of Climathon
  • Presenting our No Idling campaign at the Council State of the City event

We look forward to increasing campaigning in 2018 and trying to make a positive impact on the air quality in our fine city.

Leeds Clean Air Zone plans

Leeds Clean Air Zone plans

I welcome the news today that Leeds City Council have announced their plans to introduce a city wide Clean Air Zone (CAZ).  This means that local communities outside of the city centre won’t be adversely affected by a potential inner city CAZ. By targeting buses, coaches, HGVs and private hire cars it should not have a negative impact on  individuals who may not be able to afford to purchase their own lower emission vehicle.

However, I am concerned that these measures will not encourage people to leave their own polluting cars at home because of the lack of reliable, affordable public transport options. There is no guarantee that bus companies won’t raise their fares to compensate for the money they will have to spend on upgrading their fleets.

My other major concern is that the CAZ would only reduce NOx emissions but have no impact on toxic Particulate Matter, which is caused by all vehicles. Leeds needs more radical measures to have a meaningful impact on the city’s air quality. HAL will continue to lobby our local MPs to encourage the government to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme paid for by car manufacturers alongside heavy investment in active and public transport infrastructure.

Rachel Hartshorne

Founder and co-ordinator – Healthy Air Leeds

 

Climathon

Climathon

Last week, cities across the world spent 24 hours working on air pollution solutions. Leeds decided to split this event over two 12 hour days, but unfortunately I was only able to attend for the first 8 hours and then at the very end. I asked a few members of Healthy Air Leeds to attend in my absence and they then teamed up with other individuals who were at the event.

The first day started by listening to various speakers about air quality initiatives happening across the city and going out with Air Quality monitors. Whilst this was interesting, it left little time for us to develop our own ideas and strategies. I then had to hand the baton over to my team mates to keep the momentum going.

Collectively we had worked on various ways to tackle air pollution, however the team were asked to focus on just one idea. This culminated in the group pitching their idea for “Be a Stop Idol” which evolved from our discussions on car idling. Consequently this pitch was chosen as joint winners of the event and we will be presenting this to the council at an event in December.

I’m very proud of our collective achievement, I just wish I could have been more involved in the process.

Full details of the event can be found on the The Priestley Centre for Climate blog.

Rachel