- Now is the time to consolidate the gains we have made in terms of cleaner air.
- Opening up and repurposing our streets could lower air pollution and improve the health of millions – especially children.
- We can do this, but we will need creativity and political will to effect real change.
We live in turbulent times. The gap between the world we want and the world we see feels simultaneously closer and more distant. COVID-19 represents an unparalleled global public health crisis, one that affects our collective wellbeing and financial security. This pandemic has consequences for all, and has hit the world’s most vulnerable even harder.
The coronavirus has also exposed the vulnerability of global transport networks. It has highlighted the urgent need for more equitable and innovative use of street space for health and happiness, providing room for safe interactions. Now is the time to consolidate the widespread shift to active travel, protect public transport and remove dirty cars from our streets. The alternative – where people retreat to old private vehicles – creates the prospect of ‘carmaggedon’, with choking air and dangerous roads.
We all need clean air to breathe. Children are particularly vulnerable to dirty air, as their bodies and immune systems are still developing. Young children breathe three times as fast as adults, which means when air is polluted, they breathe in three times the amount of pollution. There is evidence that air pollution can increase vulnerability to pneumonia, as well as causing or exacerbating a range of other developmental impacts, from neurological conditions to asthma.