Simple changes to Londoners' daily commutes could reduce their exposure to London's air pollution by a radical 90%. That's the headline-grabbing finding from a new study from Northbank BID and King's College, supported by the Mayor's Air Quality Fund.
The study spent two weeks following eight professionals around the Northbank area. Northbank, you ask? The area is apparently defined as stretching between Trafalgar Square and Aldwych.
The participants did their commutes while wearing portable monitoring equipment, which must have raised some odd looks on the tube. In the first week participants took their usual route to work, and in the second they made slight alterations.
Changes in levels of exposure to air pollution varied from 25% to 90%. The fluctuations at the top end of the scale tended to occur when people switched from subterranean to above-ground methods of transport — choosing buses, trains or cycling instead of the tube.
The study also found a considerable difference depending on which tube lines participants took. Those who used deeper level lines — such as Northern and Victoria — were more likely to face higher particulate concentration.
It's not just the mode of transport people took that affected their results, how they got to their train or tube station also had an effect. Those who changed their routes by taking quieter walks to and from the station, reduced their exposure to air pollution by 50%. There were similar reductions from cyclists who kept away from main roads on their commutes — no surprises there then.
The key message of the study: taking the bus or car, or walking or cycling means you'll likely face much less air pollution than you would travelling by tube.
You can read the full report here.