Could free bikes help solve our air pollution crisis?

A scheme in Birmingham that has given away 4,000 bikes and cycling training has been recognised for its potential in improving air quality

Could a thriving cycling culture banish chronic air pollution? Those at Birmingham city council think it could help, and give residents’ health and mobility a boost at the same time.

A scheme called Big Birmingham Bikes (BBB) has given away 4,000 bikes, and 17,000 residents have received free cycling training. Launched in 2015, the programme targets people most affected by the city’s poor air quality, including those living in deprived areas and homeless people. It is part of the city council’s 20-year Birmingham Cycle Revolution, which aims for 5 per cent of all trips in the city to be made by bike by 2023, and 10 per cent by 2033.

BBB was this month declared joint winner of the 2017 Ashden UK Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities. Since 2001, the Ashden Awards have recognised innovative projects in the fields of green energy and sustainable travel. The awards were presented at a ceremony in London last week.

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One judge said: “There is huge potential to replicate the scheme and other cities should take note – its simple pragmatism could really help to reframe the national environmental debate.”

Air pollution was declared a national public health emergency by a cross-party group of MPs in 2016 and Birmingham is one of the worst areas for air quality outside of London. Britain’s second largest city consistently breaches the legal nitrogen dioxide limits set out in the European Union’s air quality directive which, according to council figures, results in 900 early deaths per year in the city. An estimated 3,113 hours of congestion has been avoided in Birmingham city centre as a result of the scheme, say those behind it.

Other cities should take note – this scheme’s simple pragmatism could really help to reframe the national environmental debate

“Transport is responsible…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

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