19 March 2019
Ditch the car if we are to breathe clean air
Radical and immediate action is needed if the looming public health crisis caused by poor air quality is to be averted. Already, more people die from poor air quality than die from smoking or road traffic accidents.
As Cardiff’s population is growing rapidly – the city is one of the fastest growing in the UK – air pollution will increase exponentially if people continue to use cars to get around the capital.
The council’s proposals for reduced car access to Castle Street and Westgate Street, announced in last Friday’s South Wales Echo, are welcome, as is the emphasis on increasing cycling. However, this is nowhere near enough. These proposals are to be implemented by 2021, yet we already have a public health problem. 2021 is too little, too late.
Moving the local authority operation from County Hall to Callaghan Square will mean that the new nerve centre will be more readily accessed by public transport, and the building of a new venue in Cardiff Bay, will, we hope, alleviate the pressure our parks are under from commercialisation.
However, in order to alleviate congestion, and clean up the air we all breathe, a vastly increased and improved public transport system based on the Metro is vital.
Other measures, such as encouraging home working, providing better bus services aimed specifically at commuters, and enhanced park and ride facilities, would also encourage people to leave their cars at home.
Research published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health last year studied 22 UK cities, and found a tangible link between the walkability of the city and reduced levels of high blood pressure and stress.
Traffic-free, walkable cities are clearly more pleasurable to live in, as well as being healthier.
Creating healthy, people-centred cities demands courage and innovation, and the task needs to begin now.
Chair, Cardiff Civic Society