Campaigners in Birmingham wear gas masks in protest at ‘toxic’ air pollution in the city, which they say is the result of traffic problems
Air quality campaigners in Birmingham have called on the council to reduce traffic levels in the city to reduce the “toxic mix of chemicalsâ€? breathed in by residents.
Friends of the Earth campaigners yesterday (June 19) wore gas masks and stood holding banners outside Birmingham Town Hall as part of a demonstration about the city’s air quality.
They argue that road traffic in the city is “by far the biggest causeâ€? of air pollution and called for the council to encourage more residents to journey by foot or bike – but the council claims it is already working on a number of initiatives to address the problem.
The protest, part of Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s ‘Let’s Get Moving’ campaign, comes in response to a Supreme Court ruling in May which stated that the city was one of 15 in the UK failing to meet EU nitrogen dioxide limits (see airqualitynews.com story).
Campaigns co-ordinator at Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Robert Pass, said that air pollution was a “huge problem with massive health impacts we can no longer ignoreâ€?, adding that “a lot more can be done locally to help tackle the problemâ€?.
He said: “Brummies are breathing in a toxic mix of chemicals on a daily basis, largely through traffic related tailpipe emissions.â€?
He added that 20% of car journeys in the UK were under two miles long and that there was “real potentialâ€? for those journeys to be made by bike.
He continued: “However in Birmingham it isn’t easy to make that positive choice, as the city lacks enough cycling infrastructure to make cycling safe and enjoyable. We’re calling on the council to be ambitious in its walking and cycling journey targets and find the investment to make this happen.â€?
However, Birmingham city council said it recognised there were air quality problems largely due to traffic, but that it was working on a number of initiatives in its Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) 2011 to tackle the issue.
A city council spokesman said: “Birmingham, like most major cities and urban regions, faces ongoing challenges with air quality, in particular with concentrations of oxides of nitrogen, primarily as a release from road traffic.â€?
The spokesman said that as traffic related air pollution is “not contained within political boundariesâ€? the council has been working with the other six West Midlands Local Authorities to form the Low Emissions Towns and Cities’ (LETC) programme.
He explained: “The aim of the programme is to incentivise the uptake of cleaner vehicle technology through local authority measures, such as planning and procurement. Furthermore, the LETC group are involved in a technical feasibility into the viability of low emission zones within the region, to assess the available options to address the traffic related pollution problems.â€?
Birmingham Friends of the Earth is planning several events to highlight air pollution and encourage alternative forms of transport use in the city, including the launch of a bike train scheme on July 26.