Wednesday, January 07, 2015

40 Darlington Deaths Caused by Dirty Air in 2014

Darlovelo this week highlighted the cost to Darlington of air pollution caused by motor traffic. In an article in the Northern Echo, and using Department of Health figures, we calculated the number of deaths in 2014, directly attributable to man made air pollution, and the results are frightening. We estimate there were 40 deaths in Darlington caused by air pollution, that’s one every 6 days.
The same calculations show that the North East has seen 1,009 people die in 2014 due to the dirty air we breath every day, a staggering one person every 8 hours. Figures for deaths caused by air pollution are taken from the Clean Air in Cities app.
People who own a car know the instant convenience of being able to jump into their private form of transport. Car owners feel protected from the elements and other people. It can be easy to ignore the hidden costs that accompany a country dominated by private motor traffic.
NO2 in Darlington
Air pollution levels exceeded target levels in Darlington Town centre (2013 Air Quality Progress Report for Darlington p18).
Matthew Snedker, vice chair of Darlovelo, said; “Air quality is often ignored theses days, as the pollution is not visible to the naked eye. We each breath in 10,000 litres of air every day and the quality of the air we breath has a direct effect on our health.” He continued “It is children’s lungs that are at greatest risk because they are still growing and tend to spend more time outdoors.
These figures show the cost of loving our cars too much, such as the death toll from air pollution. These very small particles, far too small to see with the naked eye, are generated by all engines, but especially by diesel engines. Particularly dangerous are particles of 2.5 microns in diameter (a micron is one-millionth of a meter) referred to as PM2.5. Other pollutants from engines include NOx (nitrogen oxides). These gases dissolves in the lining of the lung causing bronchitis and emphysema.
Darlington Borough Council’s own report admits that ‘Road traffic fuel and exhaust emissions remain the largest source of air pollution’. This confirms that the way to tackle the dirty air in Darlington is by providing the infrastructure needed to get people out of their cars and taking sustainable transport such as walking and cycling.
The danger to public health from air pollution is in addition to the tragic results of traffic collisions. These can be seen all to frequently in our local and national newspapers. Serious road collisions where pedestrians and cyclists are victim are on the rise. Calculations from the Department of Transport show that these traffic collisions cost Darlington residents £16.4 million per year. To this can be added the cost of inactive lifestyles caused by car dependency. Not taking enough exercise leads to a wide range of health conditions and the cost to Darlington of sedentary lifestyles is £23.7 million per year.
Darlovelo is calling on Darlington Council to install segregated cycle lanes on busy roads, protection for cyclists at junctions and slower speed limits on residential roads.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Farewell Cycling Campaign - Hello Darlovelo

Yes, I realise it's more than a year since anyone posted here. There are good reasons.

Firstly, due to a gradual reduction in active members, Darlington Cycling Campaign took the decision in 2012 to merge its activities with Darlovelo. The latter had recently been restructured by its members, with the aim of expanding its campaigning role, so it made sense to combine our efforts. Darlovelo's website is currently undergoing a number of updates that will reflect this change in the near future.

Secondly, all our contributors have over time become otherwise engaged. Richard & Beatrix are working in Bremen on cycling policy in Germany, Mike is a full-time family man, and Duncan is now working at Bikestop, leaving little time for any of us to provide a regular input.

Be that as it may, those of us who are members of Darlovelo will do our best to sustain this blog as the voice of cycling campaigning in Darlington by mirroring posts from the Darlovelo site. Meanwhile, if there are any other budding cycling campaigners who would like to get involved, please get in touch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shopping by Bike

An interesting northern online discussion has been taking place this month about shopping by bicycle. Kim Harding in Edinburgh has been arguing for better cycle access to shops, a tax on car parking space, and more convenient secure cycle parking. Tom Bailey in Newcastle  argues:

"You take places where the majority of shoppers are already walking, you make them a bit more bike friendly, you put in a few cycle routes covering the last mile or two in each direction and then you do a bit of advertising.  These places are called High Streets".

So how does this apply to Darlington? Back in 2007, as part of our ultimately successful campaign  for cyclist access to the newly pedestrianized town centre, we blogged an article about the economic benefits to retailers of cyclist shoppers, something that Kim echoes in his article. But just how convenient is it to shop in Darlington?

Well, once you are in the pedestrian area, and the comfort of access to it is pretty variable, shopping right in the centre is pretty convenient. There is good quality bike parking at a number of key points around the main shopping streets, from Northgate at the north end to Blackwellgate to the south. But try almost anything else, and you soon discover that the design of the pedestrian heart was carried out without cycling in mind.

Kim quotes Jan Gehl telling us to invite people to walk and bike in cities by developing quality streetscapes. He might have added that we should actually think about what it is like getting from A to B in these landscapes on a bicycle. Three examples spring to mind in Darlington:

1. Travelling from the town centre to the railway station, a major route for cycling in Darlington. Starting from the Pease Monument in the centre of town, you would hope to be able to cycle down the direct route towards the station, Priestgate. But no, this is one way for motorised traffic in the opposite direction, with no contraflow for cyclists. So there are two alternative options. One is to cycle round a large detour, taking in Crown Street, to arrive at the foot of Priestgate, and then on to the officially signed route to the station via Borough Road. The second is to use the cycle path below the Town Hall, but this delivers you to the wrong side of Parkgate, one of the busiest roads in Darlington. Many cyclists opt here for the obvious and use the pavement.

2. Travelling along Skinnergate and on to Duke Street. This is part of the pedestrianised zone between 10am and 5pm, so is relatively pleasant during these hours. But before and after it is used, one way, by motorised traffic. The fact that cyclists use the street in both directions appears to have confused motorists and police alike, judging from the reactions I have received whilst cycling along. A year ago, as previously reported, one motorist felt it necessary to stop me and tell me off.

3. Cycling to and from the town centre to the nearby Sainsburys on Victoria Road. This supermarket is just a few minutes' cycle from the town centre, yet there is simply no provision been made available for cycling access. Given that it lies on the dual carriageway that is the inner ring road, most cyclists choose to use pavements to access the store. Moreover, returning towards town via the obvious route (S. Arden Street), cyclists are confronted with two short one way streets going the wrong way.

A market town like Darlington still has enough small shops to make shopping by bicycle a pleasant experience. But the devil is in the detail. Planners have clearly not thought through properly what shopping on a bicycle means. These three examples do not require large sums of money to resolve. rather, as Jan Gehl says, they need planners to be thinking more seriously about how to invite cyclists to shop.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Why it is not enough to just train cyclists: Infrastructure is needed if you want to get people on bikes:

David Hembrow surprises us again with an excellent post about the "efficiency" of simple training for cycling: Without the development of cycling infrastructure (where it is needed not just where it does not disturb the car) the work of e.g. "Bikeability" will be done in vain. He also argues that with the (cheap) expense for cycling infrastructure Britain could solve some of its state budget problems.