Image: the British Lung Foundation
Local councils are being encouraged to implement a ‘no vehicle idling’ policy around places such as schools and hospitals.
The idea is part of new guidance developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) to improve air quality across England.
Published today (30 June), the guidance says no-idling zones could be used to decrease exposure to pollution at locations where the most vulnerable road users congregate – including schools, hospitals and care homes – adding that bylaws could be introduced as a way to enforce these zones.
The move has been welcomed by stakeholders, including the RAC who says that no-one should have to suffer dirty air as a result of a driver leaving their engine on unnecessarily.
Other measures included in the NICE guidance include:
- Replace speed bumps with blanket 20mph speed limits in urban areas
- Line cycle routes and walkways with trees to protect from fumes
- Roll out congestion charges across city centres
- Introduce variable speed limits on sections of motorways
- Introduce electronic signs telling drivers the ideal speed in the area to avoid stop-starting
PHE estimates long-term exposure to particulate air pollution has ‘an effect equivalent to’ around 25,000 deaths a year in England. Road traffic is estimated to contribute more than 64% of air pollution in towns and cities.
Professor Paul Lincoln, chair of the NICE guidelines committee, said: “Air pollution is a major risk to our health, and measures suggested so far have not managed to tackle the problem sufficiently.
“This guidance is based upon the best evidence available. It outlines a range of practical steps that local authorities can take, such as the implementation of no-idling zones, to reduce emissions and protect the public.”
Nick Lyes, RAC roads policy spokesman, said: “We welcome the principle of no-idling zones, especially outside schools, hospitals and care homes. No-one should have to suffer dirty air as a result of a driver leaving their engine on unnecessarily. Sadly, many drivers don’t realise the harm they are causing by doing this.
“Schools should work closely with local authorities to first encourage parents to switch their engines off. It’s right that those that then persist in leaving them on should be subject to a charge.
“While it is going to take a combination of different actions to rid our towns and cities of dirty air, introducing no-idling zones is one simple step that we can do now that can lead to cleaner air for all of us.”