Above: volunteers join Cllr Heather Acton at the Engine Idling Day
On Tuesday 12 July, Westminster City Council ran its first engine idling day as part of its commitment to reduce exhaust emissions from road transport and help create a greener city.
Dozens of local volunteers, ranging from cab drivers to residents, spent the morning at 10 air quality hotspots within the borough successfully raising awareness of the effects leaving vehicles unnecessarily running have upon the environment and upon people’s health,.
Vehicle idling while stationary is an offence which can result in an on-the-spot fine. This also creates unnecessary emissions which contribute to some of the worst levels of air pollution in central London. Prolonged idling can also create a noisy environment, especially for residents and local businesses.
Cllr Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Parking said: “Given our residents’ concerns and the impact poor air quality can have on businesses and tourism, improving air quality is high on the agenda for Westminster City Council. We need to urgently tackle the harmful effects sooner rather than later, while understanding the needs of those who move around central London.
“By proactively engaging with drivers and making them aware of how, by simply switching their engine off when they are not moving, they can help cut air pollution, we can be more mindful of our impact upon the environment and reduce unnecessary fumes. These small steps are essential for us to move towards creating a greener city which residents, visitors and workers can enjoy all year round.”
The health implications of idling is significant, and the action day follows two successful training sessions at Westminster City Hall where local residents and volunteers learnt how to raise awareness about air pollution. The training programme built the confidence and capability of volunteers to engage with drivers on the street as part of a coordinated and positive approach to engine idling in Westminster. It empowers individuals to take action on air pollution.
Westminster City Council officers are continuing to work on addressing air pollution, and will be responding to the Mayor of London’s online survey on improving air quality.
The council is also looking forward to the decision from Sadiq Khan next week on 19 July 2016 about whether Marylebone (a particular hot spot for air quality issues) will be made into a Low Emission Neighbourhood. Doing so would ensure the council, working alongside local businesses and residents, is able to directly tackle air pollution as we seek to create a greener city.
Westminster City Council is committed to improving air quality throughout the borough. Our Greener City Action Plan maps out how, with our partners, we can tackle pollution. This includes encouraging car club use as an alternative to a private car, reducing freight vehicle movement, promoting more cycling and walking and looking to reduce emissions from buildings.
A key element of our work is our bid to create a Low Emission Neighbourhood in Marylebone which is badly affected by air pollution. Poor air quality is of particular concern in Marylebone given the number of young families, schools, universities, businesses and medical facilities in the area.
Marylebone has a population of approximately 23,000 which accounts for over 10% of the population of Westminster. Census 2011 data show that over 73,000 people travel into Marylebone each day to work.