On Valentine’s Day sleepy morning commuters were offered chocolate hearts and red apples as they waited at a bus stop near the Comber Greenway (Belfast’s Cycle Highway).
The bus stop is close to the busy Knock Road junction which has an air quality monitoring station checking levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO²) due to pollution from road traffic.
The air quality awareness campaign is part of the EU-funded CHIPS project, across North West Europe, to tackle high levels of air pollution by encouraging cycling and public transport instead of car journeys.
Sustrans is the lead UK partner working on the project in east Belfast to reduce car traffic and promote sustainable transport, such as cycling on the Comber Greenway to commuters.
Tackling air pollution by staying active
Caroline Bloomfield, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the Public Health Agency, which part-funds the CHIPS initiative, said: “Encouraging people to be more physically active on their commute to work is a great way to tackle air pollution but it’s also an excellent way to give our health and wellbeing a boost. The PHA’s Choose to Live Better campaign encourages everyone to fit more activity in their daily routine. Being more active helps reduce the risk of developing obesity, many chronic conditions and improves our mental health. We’d encourage everyone to get more active: Leaving the car at home is not only better for us individually, but better for the whole community.
Damien Bannon, Belfast Bus Area Manager said: “Given a reduction of 500 cars on the road reduces traffic queues by 3km, Translink is delighted to be partnering with Sustrans this Valentine’s Day. This event is to surprise and delight our passengers, walkers and cyclists for making healthy and active travel choices.”
Recent weeks have seen very high levels of air pollution across Northern Ireland, according to DAERA (Department for Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs), which is caused mainly by particulate matter produced by traffic emissions. Air pollution is linked to the early deaths of up to 40,000 people a year in the UK, and causes problems such as heart and lung conditions.
Pamela Grove-White, from Sustrans said: “Our aim is to help more people try alternatives to the car to reduce the high levels of air pollution in our city. We have kick-started this campaign to raise awareness of the issue, explain the benefits of cycling and public transport to everyone’s health and the environment. What better way to do this than thank the people already keeping our air clean.”