By: ABI HOGLUND
Air pollution: the fourth biggest killer in the world, more than 6 million deaths every year are caused by this toxic ever growing fumes, most of these deaths are found in poor nations. Air quality will only get worse with the almost instant urbanization of cities. In 2050, two thirds of our population will live in smelly, overpopulated, toxic cities. As more people move to cities the more cars meaning more traffic and less green space (an area of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment). City dwellers often suffer from fumes and smog on their daily commutes, imagine adding more pollution to their daily diets.
Lawmakers have applied taxes and ban older,more toxic cars from cities hybrids and electric vehicles which are much more environmentally friendly have been born but why not just cut it out completely. We are missing a huge opportunity to take cars out completely for the health of the people living in cities. Imagine children playing games in the streets of New York, imagine tourists in Italy standing in the middle of the street taking photos, imagine restaurants in Beijing spilling out onto small squares, chairs and tables everywhere and not a car or bus in sight just absolute bliss. By removing cars from cities you are not just reducing emissions you’re bringing people together with the added health benefits not to mention the enormous amount of light pollution subtracted from that we could finally see the stars.
Researchers in London studied cutting emissions by using two different methods. The first method used a technology led policy, while the second promoted walking and cycling instead of driving. Both scenarios resulted in about the same levels of improved air quality but the method in which encouraged people to walk and cycle had way more health improvements from increased physical activity. Unfortunately the current air pollution may be putting people off from enjoying the outdoors and getting regular physical activity along with the corona virus keeping people indoors, out of the sunlight and out of the gym and into their beds.
Believe it or not these ideas have been thought of before in the 1850s when a group called the urban sanitarians called for new planning strategies that included more green space, better ventilation through streets and increased sunlight into homes to combat the epidemics of the time cholera and the plague (which would probably be helpful to some in this pandemic). These people made their mark on their respective cities through a conscious effort of planning for better health. Like the urban sanitarians of nearly 200 years ago, we again have the opportunity to design our cities to improve public health so why not start now? Why not start biking instead of driving it could do some good.