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Clean Air Day sparks a small green wave

The number of car journeys at Berrycoombe Primary School in Bodmin dropped by 80% to mark Clean Air Day in June.  The figures from Sustrans, the Sustainable Transport charity, show that more than 58 families left the car at home and walked, cycled or scooted to school instead.

Studies have shown that air pollution concentrates around the areas where it is formed; so places that have lots of traffic can have higher levels of pollution.

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Cabinet Member for the Environment, Councillor Rob Nolan, said: “It’s fantastic to see this kind of data, which demonstrates the commitment of the school staff, the children and the parents at the school.  Leaving the car at home, or if you have to drive, going the last few hundred yards or so on foot can make a huge difference to the air quality at the school gate and I hope that other schools could be inspired to follow in their footsteps.”

Other feedback from the event showed that 98% of the parents and residents questioned would like to see the event repeated and that 78% were worried or very worried about the health impacts of car exhaust fumes at school drop-off and pick-up times. 

During the event cycling levels have increased by 40%, scooting levels have increased by 53% and ‘Park & Stride’ levels have doubled.

Cllr Nolan continued: “We know that car exhaust fumes are a major contributor to air pollution and it’s great to see schools like Berrycoombe taking the initiative and working with Sustrans to improve the quality of the air the pupils are breathing.  Changes like this can make a big difference to the quality of our air and to our children’s health.”

It’s predicted that up to 36,000 deaths each year in the UK are caused by air pollution. The World Health Organisation (WHO) sets maximum limits for air pollution, these limits look at daily and annual averages. Almost 2,000 locations in the UK are above these limits and there are places in the UK where the air pollution is three times as high as the WHO limits.

James Cleeton, Sustrans Director for the South said: “The children, families and staff at Berrycoombe Primary School have shown how we can dramatically improve the school neighbourhood, by replacing cars with human power and by opening school streets for people.

“As so many of us witnessed on the day of the school street closure there was a surprising sense of calm to the start of the day which is in complete contrast to what can normally be expected as cars back up and children dodge car doors to get through the school gate.

“By choosing to restrict vehicles and open their school street for people the school didn’t just reduce congestion in their neighbourhood and prevent the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but also gave pupils and staff a better start to the school day.”