GLASGOW and Edinburgh are to mark Clean Air Day later this month with a series of road closures and events designed to raise awareness and encourage people to ditch their cars.
The date – Thursday, June 21 – is geared towards having drivers and commuters switch to active travel or public transport, as an alternative to their own vehicles.
Now Scotland’s largest two cities are to close off roads to make their use impossible and reinforce the message.
In Glasgow, a section of road outside the City Chambers in George Square will be sealed off from cars so people can try out bicycles and electric bikes along a specially designed course.
That will be accompanied by cycle training sessions, the chance to try out an electric bikes and electric vehicles on show during the event which runs from 10am to 2pm.
Aberdeen-based motoring adventurer Chris Ramsey and his wife Julie, who took part in the epic 10,000-mile long Mongol Rally last year in an electric Nissan Leaf will also be showing off the car in the square.
Chris, who founded Plug In Adventure in 2011 to promote the benefits of electric car ownership, and Julie are currently on a tour of five Scots cities with the Leaf.
He said: “We cannot wait to arrive in Glasgow and engage with the public.
“Cleaner air is essential for our health and well-being, and helps to protect our environment as a natural asset. Electric vehicles emit zero tailpipe emissions, and therefore can make a massive impact on tackling the dangerous levels of air pollution in our cities.”
The event was launched by Councillor Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, when pupils from Hyndland Secondary School, fitted air quality monitoring equipment last month.
Susannah Telfer, a senior technical consultant at Ricardo Energy & Environment which measures air quality in streets in towns and cities assisted.
Councillor Richardson said: “Reducing emissions is a top priority for the city. Events like Clean Air Day can increase awareness of what is being done to improve the quality of the air we all breathe.
“Clean Air Day will showcase a huge range of exhibits and activities such as active travel, renewable energy, car clubs and electric vehicles that can all help to improve air quality.
“We have made big improvements in air quality in Glasgow but poor air remains a public health concern and a major social justice issue for the city.”
Glasgow has been widely criticised for not being ambitious enough with plans for its Low Emissions Zones which are due to be detailed further this week.
In particular, city chiefs have been slated for exemptions to the worst polluting vehicles such as buses and lorries, rather than including them from the start.
But she claimed: “The forthcoming Low Emission Zone will make significant reductions to air pollution in the city centre. Our LEZ will be the first in the country and will deliver cleaner air for the people of Glasgow.”
Also present will be an electric luxury Tesla car, electric vehicles, including a Renault Zoe, a Renault Kangoo ZE electric van, a Nissan Leaf and an electric BMW i3 and the company’s hybrid i8.
The boom in car clubs is to be highlighted by two companies, Co-Wheels, which has 36 cars and around 1,400 members in Glasgow, and another firm, Enterprise Car Club.
An electric ‘Hackney Cab’ taxi that will also be parked up in the square.
A spokesperson for the car’s manufacturers, the London EV Company said: “The taxi sector is leading the charge when it comes to reducing dangerous emissions from city centres through innovative electric vehicle technology.”
Officers from Cycling Scotland will be on hand to train youngsters to gain the confidence needed to cycle in safety along a special course in the sealed off street directly outside the City Chambers.
Katharine Brough, the charity’s Head of Behaviour Change, said: “Toddlers will have the chance to learn to cycle on balance bikes in George Square through the inspiring Play on Pedals programme.
“There will be a ‘Bikeability’ showcase in front of the City Chambers, demonstrating how older children are gaining skills and confidence to cycle on-road. These events will show the appetite for more people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy cleaner air and a healthier environment.”
Scottish Cycling will also have a stand promoting its organised bike rides, and especially its popular women-only Breeze Rides which are encouraging thousands of riders to dust off their cycling gear and get cycling.
Eight electric bicycles are being provided by Home Energy Scotland for demo runs.
Robbie Dalrymple, the Operations Co-ordinator of the organisation which provides free advice on renewable energy, said: “Technology is making switching to an electric vehicle or a renewable source of energy more achievable and more affordable than ever.
“Our team will be on George Square helping people find out how they can make environmentally friendly energy choices at home and on the road.”
Meanwhile, cycle charity Sustrans will be out in George Square promoting the city’s South City Way route and the Woodside Mini Holland project, which aims to deliver a safer cycling community in the city’s Woodside area.
Air quality teams from Ricardo Energy & Environment and Air Monitors will be showing visitors to their tent how the hi-tec equipment used to measure pollution levels in towns and cities works with prizes also on offer.
A spokesperson for Ricardo said: “It is a great opportunity to raise people’s awareness of what air pollution is and what can be and is currently being done to tackle the issue in Scotland.”
John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer for Environmental Protection Scotland (EPS) said: “Clean Air Day aims to encourage people to take at least one action to help improve air quality, whether that’s walking the children to school rather than taking the car, or walking to work, using public transport or finding out more information about an electric or low emission car – or joining a city car club.
“George Square is a perfect location for this event in the heart of Glasgow as it will allow office workers, families, shoppers and the thousands of other people who will be passing by to find out more about what they can do to improve air quality.”
Edinburgh, meanwhile, has also taken the decision to close off roads but on a larger scale.
It will see The Mound closed off for the entire morning and replaced by yoga classes, electric bikes and park benches.
Traffic will also be banned in the east of George Street through until Friday afternoon, freeing up the space for school kids.
Humza Yousaf, the transport minister, will also lead a processions down the newly cleared route to highlight whathas been dubbed the Edinburgh Summer Summit.
Crucially, the drop off in traffic will be measured by environmental experts for the council to analyse what difference it makes.
Other activities will see amass Lindy Hop dance take place involving a local swing group, pedal powered games, and cycling activities for children and adults alike.
City transport leader Lesley Macinnes said: “Improving the quality of the air that we breathe is a top priority for the Capital.
“Over the two days we will be monitoring the impact the road closures have on the environment, in particular air quality and noise.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the move.
Air Pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna said: “Well done to Edinburgh City Council for showing leadership and a willingness to highlight the link between traffic and air pollution on National Clean Air Day.
“Edinburgh still has an invisible air pollution crisis caused by traffic, with 200 early deaths a year and damage to our children’s lungs caused by the city’s toxic traffic fumes.
“The Council needs to make sure that the strong symbolism it is showing with this event translates into better transport and planning policy decisions on the ground.”
“Let’s hope this event marks the start of air quality being better prioritised in urban planning.”
These road closures will give our city some breathing space from the pollution caused by traffic and are an excellent opportunity to think about the dominance of the private car in our urban centres.
“Hopefully we’ll start to see regular car free days in Edinburgh and other cities in Scotland in the near future.”
Director of walking and cycle charity Sustrans Scotland, John Lauder, said: “Clean air has never been more important, and the need for action never more urgent. Poor quality air has been shown to cause a whole range of health problems.
“The best and easiest way to deal with air pollution in cities is to reduce the number of cars in congested urban spaces.”
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: Clean Air Day Scotland – Get Involved
IMAGE CREDITS: Global Action Plan