‘Switch off car engine at the school gates, mum’ urges Tower Hamlets Council’s fresh air campaign

East End's 'clean air' campaign launched at Bethnal Green's Bonner Primary School. Picture: Kois Mia

East End's 'clean air' campaign launched at Bethnal Green's Bonner Primary School. Picture: Kois Miah - Credit: LBTH

Mums and dads picking up children from school are being urged by Tower Hamlets Council to switch off their car engines while waiting at the gates.

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets joining Bonner Primary schoolchildren for the 'clean air' campaign. Pictu

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets joining Bonner Primary schoolchildren for the 'clean air' campaign. Picture: Kois Miah - Credit: LBTH

It is part of a town hall campaign with the NHS, environment charities and TfL to clean up the East End’s air pollution which is said to exceed UK and European limits.

An idling engine can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions as cars on the move.

Leaving engines running while vehicles are stationary is technically illegal under the 2002 Road Traffic Vehicle Emissions regulations, making it an offence to have them idling unnecessarily when stopped.

On yer bike... Mayor John Biggs down Club Row in September 2017 urging everyone to switch to 'sustai

On yer bike... Mayor John Biggs down Club Row in September 2017 urging everyone to switch to 'sustainable' transport. Picture source: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

But the plea to parents at the school gates is just the start of the campaign.


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The council plans to create green spaces in areas with high pollution levels, while TfL and environment charities want to encourage more use of “sustainable transport” including bicycles and electric cars.

“Our ‘breathe clean’ campaign is to encourage people to change and help improve air quality,” Cllr Rachel Blake said.

Message to parents not to leave their car-engines idling while waiting at school gates. Picture: Koi

Message to parents not to leave their car-engines idling while waiting at school gates. Picture: Kois Miah - Credit: LBTH

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“Some of the worst pollution is in more deprived areas, so our plans are to get air quality within legal limits.”

Idling engines at the school gates is a small part of problem, with congested routes like the A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach among London’s most polluted main roads.

Traffic affects children, the elderly and those in bad heath, the council points out. It can lead to thickening arteries and make strokes or heart disease more likely.

July 2015... Youngster leads 'clean air' campaign by tenants on Poplar Harca housing estate next to

July 2015... Youngster leads 'clean air' campaign by tenants on Poplar Harca housing estate next to traffic-jammed A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Picture: Rehan Jamil - Credit: Poplar Harca

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “We need to use sustainable transport to reduce pollution, which would improve air quality.”

The local authority is running experimental workshops on “wearable technology” such as jackets and gloves that measure air quality in the streets. Volunteers can register online to take part in the workshops starting on Saturday at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in Southern Grove, Mile End, from 11.30am to 2.30pm.

Other workshops are planned the following two Saturdays—March 24 at Poplar’s Teviot community centre in Wyvis Street, 11.30-2.30pm, and March 31 at Mudchute Farm in Pier Street, Isle of Dogs, 12-2.30pm.

The council also has a deal for households to get half discount on cycle hire memberships and is also building a network of vehicle charging points to encourage more electric cars.

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