Noxious air disappeared when London closed roads to cars for cycle event

"Six years of conclusive evidence that if you would like to breathe clean air, you need to radically reduce polluting vehicles in urban settings." That’s the conclusion of City, University of London professor of visual analytics Jo Wood as he presented a graph showing how restricting car use leads to a massive drop in air pollution.

His graph features data from Putney during Ride London events where it’s only bikes on the streets and no cars.

The graph is similar to one produced last year when Newcastle closed some city centre roads for a family cycling event organised by British Cycling. Air-quality monitoring equipment picked up the massive drop in noxious air when the HSBC British Cycling Ride took over the streets.

Just as in London, roads often clogged with motors belching out poisonous exhaust gases were, instead, quiet, clean and fume-free.

A graph produced by Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory showed the drop in noxious air during the staging of the city centre ride. Monitoring equipment operated by the Geospatial Engineering Group at the university’s Civil Engineering and Geosciences department plotted the falling away of air pollution as barriers were erected to prevent motorists from entering much of the city centre. (Similar results can be seen from the air-quality monitors in the early hours of the morning – with motorists in bed their only noxious emissions are personal and generally duvet-capped.)

The Urban Observatory’s real-time sensor feeds showed the air quality of individual roads in Newcastle.

Tom Komar, of Sustrans’ transport modelling team, said at the time that the graph showed how "a cycling event temporarily improved air quality" and that this "proves the benefits of active travel" for the health of cities and the individuals who inhabit them.

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