Walking and cycling charity Sustrans has welcomed proposals for the establishment of a Clean Air Zone in Birmingham, but has claimed that the plans ‘will not solve air pollution on their own’.
The comments came in response to the council’s consultation on the proposed introduction of a charging Clean Air Zone which ended this month (17 August).
According to Sustrans, a ‘sustainable solution to air pollution must involve fewer, not just cleaner, vehicles’. The charity has urged the council to consider investing any revenue generated from its Clean Air Zone into schemes to boost walking and cycling.
Birmingham is one of five authorities required by the government to take action to meet air quality limits in the shortest possible time with a requirement to consider the introduction of a Clean Air Zone, or other measures that would bring-about a similar reduction in emissions.
Proposals set out by Birmingham would involve the introduction of a ‘Class D’ charging CAZ applying to the ‘most polluting vehicles, including buses, coaches, lorries, taxis and private hire vehicles, vans and private cars.
It is proposed that the Clean Air Zone should cover all roads within the A4540 Middleway ring road.
Under Birmingham’s plans, charges are likely to be levied on pre Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol light vehicles, while heavy goods vehicles would be required to meet the Euro VI standard to avoid charges.
In its response, Sustrans has claimed that the most effective way to address the issue is to achieve a ‘modal shift’ away from cars towards walking and cycling.
The charity has called upon the city council to invest revenue from the CAZ into alternatives to encourage people towards active transport, as well as investing in e-bikes and cargo bikes.
Commenting on the consultation Matthew Easter, Sustrans Director Midlands and East said: “All the evidence shows that fewer, not just cleaner, car journeys are needed to improve air quality so cycling and walking must be part of the solution. That’s why we’re calling on the Council to reinvest the income it receives from the Clean Air Zone to make walking and cycling a safe and attractive alternative for short journeys.
“Let’s be clear, we’re dealing with a real air quality crisis which kills 900 local people every year – with many more suffering health problems. It really is time we tackled this problem courageously and collaboratively so our children can grow up in a safe and healthy environment.â€?
Birmingham’s proposals have garnered a mixed response with opposition councillors having claimed that residents have little alternative to using their cars to get around the city, however the health charity British Heart Foundation has welcomed the proposals (see airqualitynews.com story).