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Making a Long-Term Difference to Air Quality

Air quality is one of the most important health, economic and environmental challenges facing cities worldwide. You may not see air pollution, but it can play a major role in poor health, and by working together, there are many things we can all do to improve air quality and help look after everyone’s health.

Increasingly, cities worldwide are recognizing the need to evaluate long term what needs to change and many are implementing measures to address air pollution arising from transport emissions. This requires a multi-agency, collaborative approach to communications of the issue and delivery of an ultimate solution – from national government, local and federal authorities, health professionals and transport companies, to industry and communities. Designed and implemented thoughtfully, the cleaner air measures can also support wider social and economic objectives.

Public awareness and engagement is crucial if cities are to develop and deliver their strategies effectively, and organizations like Global Action Plan (GAP) in the U.K. are supporting this mission. On 21 June 2018, the U.K. National Clean Air Day signals a day of action aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding of air pollution, highlighting the associated health risks and encouraging people to think about how they can make a long-term difference to our air quality.

“Cities are growing and population densities close to cities are increasing. Key questions that need to be considered include ‘how will these people commute to their jobs, quickly efficiently and healthily?’” said Jacobs Head of Air Quality in Europe Hazel Peace. “There is a limit to the road capacity in city centers and we need to generate places where people can live and work in a healthier environment. One of the key obstacles to this is air pollution, which tends to be higher in city centers than more rural locations, this is primarily related to road transport. We need robust alternatives to reduce congestion and create a healthier environment that improves the air quality.

“Measures like Clean Air Zones are an important start, but longer-term, ambitious and holistic planning could make a more significant difference.  We want to help our clients deliver the solutions that assist in delivery of other long-term strategic priorities around growth, congestion, climate and energy policy, whilst tackling local air quality.”

UK National Clean Air Day – What’s Changed?

Last year, the U.K.’s first ever National Clean Air Day helped millions of people respond to air pollution through over 200 events and 550 press, radio and TV features. A real buzz on social media saw 28,000 tweets and #NationalCleanAirDay trended at number one on Twitter for five hours. That represents a clear groundswell of public interest in tackling air pollution. The day was a huge collaborative effort between organizations and individuals. Harnessing the efficiencies of shared knowledge and resource across the cities involved was a vital component in its success. The legacy of the award-winning 2017 campaign has not only improved public understanding about air pollution but also paved the way for a second Clean Air Day. You can learn more about the 2017 campaign here.

This year, with support and backing from the U.K. Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, regional councils, health institutions and over 180 organizations, thousands of people are expected to participate in the day at over 400 clean air events taking place across the U.K.

A network of cities including Manchester, Leeds, York, Birmingham, Southampton, Bristol, Bath, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London (to name but a few) are galvanizing their communities – advising people to take action to reduce the air pollution they create, and providing guidance on what they can do to protect themselves and their families in the future. Collaboration with Environmental Protection Scotland and Cleaner Air for Scotland is also helping to bring the campaign to life. From hosting Clean Air festivals and major health conferences, to city-center road closures, the cities are seeking to raise the profile of pollution and health significantly. To make a pledge visit:

Jacobs is project managing the Greater Manchester Clean Air Day for client Transport for Greater Manchester for the second year running. Greater Manchester is hosting a variety of events across schools, businesses, hospitals and the local community. There is a huge emphasis on school engagement with a media competition designed to raise awareness. From anti-idling campaigns, and air pollution and health workshops, to holding street parties on Clean Air Day, schools have become increasingly engaged with this topic since last year’s campaign. Transport for Greater Manchester is supporting more than 700 businesses and other organizations to help them work more sustainably. TfGM is also working with the National Health Service to hold information awareness events incorporating lung function tests, testing the latest electric cars and bikes, and awards for sustainable travel.

Elsewhere, we’re supporting both Bristol City Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council on their Clean Air Day activities, as part of ongoing wider Clean Air plan work. Some of the activities link with Bike Week, 9-17 June, which encourages people to rethink their everyday journeys and switch to cycling as an alternative, sustainable way to get around.

Sustainable systems for transportation

We’re also helping clients develop and deliver smart, sustainable systems for greener, more dependable transportation. In Canada, we’re helping identify opportunities for wireless electrification of the country’s largest commuter transit system, Hydrail. We developed a feasibility study highlighting the possibilities of providing 6,000 weekly trips by 2025, powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology as a clean, efficient energy choice versus conventional diesel or overhead electric wires.

In the U.S., developing a first-in-class subway car is an essential part of modernizing the New York City subway system. We’re supporting New York City Transit with one of the largest rolling stock procurements in the industry – up to 1,612 top-of-the-line vehicles focused on safety, cost reduction, operational efficiency, customer experience and use of green technology.

What’s next?

Shorter-term awareness raising with campaigns like Clean Air Day helps to provide the public with some contextual understanding of transport-related pollution issues and health impacts by focusing actions on one day. However long-term awareness raising is crucial to building a widespread body of understanding amongst our communities. Meaningful public engagement is needed for bold measures such as Clean Air Zones (Defra CAZ Framework, 2017) to be effectively implemented. The detailed assessment work that local authorities are now undertaking across the U.K. for Clean Air Zones will soon paint a picture of what measures will be sufficient and how travel around some of our major cities and towns will be set to transform.

London has developed the world's first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) planned for Central London, with proposals to expand to the North and South Circular boundary for cars, vans and motorcycles and strengthen the standards of the existing London-wide Low Emission Zone for larger vehicles. A number of London Boroughs are now developing proposals for Low Emissions Neighborhoods. Other large cities are expected to develop proposals for Clean Air Zones over the coming months.

Jacobs’ specialists across transport planning, air quality, economics, health, and communications are supporting U.K. cities’ Clean Air Plans, as they face some of the biggest challenges around air quality that the U.K. has seen since the Clean Air Act was last amended 25 years’ ago. For more information, connect with us here.

Global Action Plan

U.K. National Clean Air Day 

Bike Week





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