• julianwatkins

Fuming in Traffic

The pollution in cities is terrible. There’s no escaping it if you live somewhere busy as I do. What to do? Walking’s good for you, right. But breathing in fumes is bad. I like to walk. I’d rather walk. In cities driving often takes longer anyway and you always end up stressed to hell. City driving is no fun. But I always felt a little cheated when walking, as I thought I was breathing in more pollution than the drivers who were making it all in the first place. They were cocooned in their vehicles while I was out in the fumes with the other walkers and the bikers.

I stumbled on this report which surprised me and cheered me up. It turns out we breath in more pollution in the car than if walking or biking. It seems the polluting particles are too small for air filters to offer much protection. And crucially, the cars sit smack in the middle of the road where pollution is at its worst. Also, the duct to get air into the car is lower than most peoples’ heads. Pollution is worst low down so the car passengers get it worse.

Us walkers (and bikers) can tweak things more in our favour. Cars are pretty much stuck in the traffic with limited avoidance options. We’re not. Get away from the traffic whenever you can. Any avoidance helps. Even walking on the side of the pavement away from the traffic can be beneficial. On our regular walk to town there are side roads away from the worst pollution that we take. This reduces the fumes we breath substantially. And on our school walk we take roads away from the regular school run traffic jam where possible.

In summary. Pollution is a nightmare. I hate it. But while we wait for the electric car revolution (and optimistically, the walking and biking revolution), I won’t be put off. Quite the contrary. I’m encouraged. Walking or biking is good for the body. It’s good for the mind; you meet people when you leave that tin box. You see things you miss in the car. It’s cheap. And you get less pollution. Win, win, win, win, win, win.

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