Last week, ordinary Londoners from all walks of life and from the north, south, east and west of the city got together to help put a stop to unnecessary vehicle engine idling in a series of action events across the capital.
London has some of the worst air quality in the UK. In fact, in early 2016, parts of the capital had already exceeded the EU's yearly pollution limits in just eight days! Annually, around 10,000 'early deaths' have been attributed to the filthy air we Londoners breathe in every day. The most common pollutants related to transport pollution, NO2 and Particulate Matter (PM), also contribute to a range of health issues including respiratory illnesses, lung and kidney problems and it is estimated that between 15-30% of new cases of child asthma are attributable to poor air quality.
To be fair, there are many government and city level initiatives already underway to clean up the capital's air, but the citizens of London were also crying out for an opportunity to help with some practical action of their own to help fight air pollution. Now they can!
The week of 17 October saw the official launch of the Mayor of London supported 'Vehicle Idling Action' campaign that brought together 12 borough councils from the length and breadth of Greater London in unified action. Each council recruited and trained local residents and staff of businesses to enable them to become a volunteer army of 'clean air champions' for their area, talking to pedestrians and motorists alike, raising awareness of the problems of engine idling and gaining pledges from motorists to 'always switch off when stationary'.
The action events took place in a variety of venues, from schools, to shopping malls, from City Hall to community squares and everything in-between. The volunteers talked to hundreds of passers-by, motorists, taxi drivers, bus drivers and the fabled 'white van man' to inform them of the polluting nature of idling their engines when parked up.
The approach of this project is unusual in that it used a game and a positive, engaging approach to get the messages across. Eco action games, a start up social business, created a bespoke version of their popular snakes + ladders game in both a giant size to attract passers-by to the event, and also in a mini version that was given to motorists and children to help spread the messages about air pollution and what we can all do to reduce our exposure. The mini game proved a very popular give-away and hundreds were given away across the week.
The reactions were overwhelmingly positive and, over the week, the cumulative 'score on the door' from all events saw around 400 people talked to (both motorists and non motorists), over 200 pledging never to idling again and we found that around three quarters of the idling drivers we talked to switched off there and then when asked.
These events will be happening regularly, across the boroughs for the next 6 months. More information about the project can be found here: idlingaction.london.