78% Of London's Main Roads Failing On Nitrogen Dioxide

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 57 months ago
78% Of London's Main Roads Failing On Nitrogen Dioxide

smog_030913Live in the borough of Bromley? Congratulations! You're the only London borough where fewer than half the main roads are below the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide air pollution levels, according to the Green party.

London Assembly Member Jenny Jones has produced a breakdown by borough of how many main roads broke the EU legal limit for NO2 in 2012 (to be technical, that's no more than 18 occurrences of hourly mean >200μg/m3 each year), as measured by the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) at King's College.

100% of sites measured in the City of London, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham broke the legal limit; as did over 90% of the sites in Tower Hamlets, Islington, Southwark, Lambeth, Hackney and Wandsworth; Newham, Lewisham, Ealing, Brent, Hounslow, Haringey and Redbridge score between 80-90% illegal; Greenwich, Waltham Forest, Barnet, Enfield, Kingston upon Thames, Barking and Dagenham and Merton rank 70-80%; the other boroughs are between 50-70% apart from Bromley, where only 45% of sites monitored were over the EU legal limit. Overall, 78% of London's main roads measured too much nitrogen dioxide in 2012. (ITV London has the exact figures.)

Nitrogen dioxide can affect people's respiratory systems, inflame the lung lining and increase susceptibility to infections like bronchitis, and is thought to particularly affect asthmatics. It also reacts with sunlight to create ozone and helps in the formation of particles like PM10s. The LAQN says London's NO2 levels haven't reduced as much as expected, and says the blame is currently thought to lie at the exhaust pipes of diesel engines. Bad news if you live, work or go to school near a busy road.

Earlier this year the Assembly voted 16-6 in favour of a motion calling on the Mayor to develop emergency measures to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels. With around 4,000 Londoners dying prematurely because of air pollution (and 6-9% of deaths in the city attributed to particles in the air), this is something Boris Johnson does need to tackle, quickly.

See also: London’s Air Quality Is Rubbish, But What Can Be Done?

Photo by londonstuff from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 03 September 2013


The amount of hard landscaping needs to be managed and nature's air conditioning systems re-installed.

Grass shrubs & trees take in COx and NOx and process this for their nutrients, thay also sweat out water which takes up 2.5 million calories-worth of heat for every gallon of water that evaporates. In addition the green spaces are sponges for attenuating the fierce surge of water that hits the drainage systems after heavy rain giving rise to flood risk, and the foliage also acts like an air filtration system capturing dust and PM10's.

Where can we put this stuff - well one way is to look at the roads and see how much or how little of the surfaces area is actually needed for only purpose that is legally mandated - moving traffic. In some places vast areas are tarmac simply because it was convenient to tarmac the whole area. In other places 50% of the road surface is wastefully used to park cars, which sit idle and unused for much of the time (the averege car sits idle for 95% of the day) take those parked cars off our streets, and plant trees and small parks in place of parking.

Parking cars off the street will make it clear how much the value of the land used for parking is, as car parking will then compete on a level playing field with office and retail space and pricing will then reflect this. In this way we may change the position whereby car parking is often the biggest user of urban land but the use which pays the least for that benefit. With a proper market driven pricing for parking the options to use other means of transport and conduct business in new ways (workplace-home-shops relationships etc) could reduce pollution and change the urban landscape dramatically


Bromley has lower levels of Pollution because they ripped out their Traffic Calming a few years ago, they also had the lowest cycle casualties after removal/ The rise in Nitrous Oxides since the 1980s is also mostly down to LEZ compliant modern alleged Co2 efficient transport engines and gas central heating but most of all Traffic Calming and 20 Mph Zones !