To mark National Clean Air Day (21/06), Oxford City Council and Oxford Friends of the Earth are running an anti-idling event in Oxford city centre.
The event, linked to their joint Oxford Air Needs Your Care campaign, is taking place at two separate locations – St Clement’s Street (at The Plain) and St Giles’ – from 8am to 9am and from 4pm to 5pm.
Leaflets and stickers will be distributed by Oxford City Council and Friends of the Earth volunteers to members of the public hoping to educate residents about air pollution and promote clean travel behaviours, including turning off engines when stationary, and using alternative modes of transportation.
In March this year, the City Council and Oxford Friends of the Earth launched an anti-idling campaign encouraging motorists across the city to switch off whenever they are stationary for extended periods.
It is the first formal cooperation between the City Council and Oxford Friends of the Earth.
The campaign initially focused on idling at schools, encouraging parents not to leave their vehicle’s engine running while waiting at the school gate– or to use cleaner travel methods on the school run, such as walking or cycling. Oxford City Council’s air quality officer and members of Oxford Friends of the Earth have been visited schools during the campaign to teach pupils about the dangers of air pollution.
In 2016 a report found that outdoor air pollution causes about 40,000 deaths in the UK each year. Air pollution has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution.
Despite a 36.9 per cent reduction in levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide across Oxford in the last decade, parts of the city centre are still failing to meet the legal limit on the pollutant. About 75 per cent of air pollution comes from traffic.
The City Council has been involved in leading a range of projects, to tackle air pollution in Oxford.
This includes installing electric vehicle charging points for residents and taxis, upgrading buses to be electric or ultra-low emission, and in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council proposing the world’s first Zero Emission Zone.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for Safer and Greener Environment, said: “Put bluntly, air pollution kills. Toxic and illegal air is affecting the health of people right here in Oxford, from the womb to old age. It doesn’t have to be this way and cutting your engines at the school gate or while you’re stationary can make a bigger difference than you’ll ever know. We’re extending our anti-idling campaign and asking more people to leave the car at home and pedal to work.”
Fiona Tavner, Coordinator at Oxford Friends of the Earth, said: “Turning the engine off when the car's not moving is about the simplest way anyone can help cut air pollution. It also saves money and fuel. It makes perfect sense. We encourage everyone to get behind this.”