Air Quality, Active travel and Modal shift – Why it’s important to reduce the emissions from our vehicles


Every year 40,000 people suffer premature deaths as a result of poor air quality. Around 9,000 of these are a direct result of emissions from cars, buses and lorries.

The emissions from vehicles is a mixture of Hydrocarbons, CO2 both stuff that causes global warming; Nitrogen dioxde and particulates of different sizes (small particles less than 1/400th of millimetre across that get into the lungs and cause breathing problems) are the killer pollutants. Diesel vehicles emissions are worse and typically emit fifteen times more particulates.

Last year just under 1800 people died as a result of accidents on our roads. So how many people died on our roads?

Active travel is modern jargon for walking, running, riding a bike or pushing a scooter to your destination (something that requires your own physical effort). It’s come about in recent times as these other “active travel” modes have fought to be allocated road space, as the car and the lorry have become more and more prevalent on our roads. 97% of all freight in North Yorkshire travels by truck.

Climate change as well as our health mean we need to reduce emissions from cars , buses and lorries. There are a number of  ways of cleaning up the air. The easiest win is what is called modal change  – ie changing from one method of transport to another cleaner one). For example: This is where  a car driver may choose to walk or ride a bike rather than drive their car to a destination (60% of all car journeys in Harrogate are less than a mile a and half). There are many ways in which modal shift can occur Car to active travel, Car to public transport  – bus or train, Public transport to active travel I’m sure you get the idea. Even solo occupancy car to multiple occupancy helps

Active travel is good for us as it keeps us exercised, fit with a boost of healthy hormones that make us feel better.

Recently many of us have had to work from home and will continue to do so once this pandemic is over – perhaps not every day but enough days that will help improve the quality of air.

The other key way the country is pursuing to clean up the air is through technology. Electric cars are becoming much more common place with much longer range before they need refuelling, electric buses are here in Harrogate.

Lorries are proving to be harder to find a new technology with sufficient pulling power but soon I expect to see electric and hydrogen powered trucks on our road. Shorter supply chains will also help, with hopefully, many of us buying food and other things that are Made in Yorkshire.

About 44% of Harrogate District’s carbon emissions come from transport.

By Cllr Paul Haslam, Bilton and Nidd Gorge

1 Comment

  1. Why don’t some of these councillors actually do something instead of reciting platitudes? I’m not ditching my car for some lousy electric bus service which is incredibly expensive, it’s not an exaggeration to say that as a family it would be cheaper to get a taxi into the town centre. Unless you can take the train or the 36 bus for your journey, public transport in Harrogate is a joke.

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