Buses and other diesel-powered vehicles are ‘poisoning’ pedestrians in some of Britain’s biggest towns and cities, according to research carried out by gas supplier Calor. Using published air-quality figures from 30 different locations, Calor compared the levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) to that produced by a single Rothmans Light cigarette. NOx is a major cause of smog and has been associated with the rising incidence of asthma and other respiratory disorders in children.
According to the research, over the course of 24 hours a pedestrian at rest in Oxford city centre would inhale the NOx equivalent of 61.4 ‘light’ cigarettes. Bath was next worst at 46.8 cigarettes. London’s Marylebone Road came in third at 30.0, followed by the King’s Road in Chelsea at 29.6. Amazingly, the peak reading for central Oxford was the equivalent of 185 cigarettes.
What makes these results all the more surprising is that both Oxford and London have moved to prevent cars entering their city centres. London introduced the Congestion Charge in February 2003, cutting traffic levels by 30 per cent, and Oxford’s centre underwent extensive pedestrianisation combined with edge-of-town park-and-ride schemes.