Vivienne Westwood and Duffy joined a crowd of cyclists on the ‘Cleaner Air Bike Ride’ that took place during the Urban Outdoor Festival in Camden on Saturday 5th July 2014. The event was designed to raise awareness of several environmental issues including climate change, air quality and the benefits of cycling rather than petrol/diesel transport.
Singer-songwriter Duffy mingled with the crowds during the event and joined the bike ride which travelled north from Camden Market, crossing Hampstead Heath before returning to Camden Market. Having completed the ride a breathless Duffy said: “North London is famously a ‘hip’ place to live … I figured that the people in this area would be keen to know how they can get ahead of the game, so I joined Vivienne to help promote awareness of issues such as air quality.”
ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, fitted one of the bikes with an AQMesh air quality monitor so that live readings could be viewed during the festival, and the graph below shows Nitrogen Dioxide levels (one of the most important pollutants) during the ride. Andrea Lee from ClientEarth’s Healthy Air Campaign rode the three-wheeled Cargo Bike and collected the air quality data. “NO2 levels declined overnight, but increased sharply as the morning traffic started,” she reported. “However, it is interesting to note that pollutant levels dropped significantly as the cyclists travelled away from the traffic through Hampstead Heath. This highlights how traffic affects people’s health through increased exposure to air pollution.”
The day was opened by Dame Vivienne Westwood who led the Cleaner Air Bike Ride around Camden demonstrating low pollution cycle routes. She was joined by Duffy, Sally Gimson (Labour councillor for Camden and cabinet member for sustainability and environment), members of the public, Camden Council and local cycle groups.
The overarching theme of the day was to recognise and address air pollution and sustainability within the borough of Camden and city-wide. Guest speakers talked passionately about using green transport, growing your own food and protecting natural spaces.
Duffy was particularly interested in the development of localised air quality data. “It’s over 60 years since the Great Smog of London which killed an extra 4,000 people, so it’s astonishing that a similar number of people still die prematurely every year in London as a result of air pollution,” she said, adding: “Air quality information needs to be made available in a way that can help people make informed decisions – where to live, where to send their kids to school, which route to travel to work and even where to jog or cycle.
“Despite the fact that air quality is a bigger killer than obesity, alcohol or road accidents, air quality is not a priority in most people’s lives. As a nation, we have just scraped ourselves out of a pretty deep economic hole, leaving many people feeling vulnerable and demoralised; your home is your security – home is where the heart is (and all that); people need to know the air quality on their street as it will start to impact on where they want to live.”
She continues: “So, when air quality affects people’s pockets, they will surely take notice, and make decisions that reduce pollution – walking more, cycling more, driving less and buying cars with cleaner (non-diesel) emissions? This is not just about climate and environment; this is about people and the economy. In a nutshell … house prices will someday be affected by the quality of the air. So act now, to sustain the value of your home …”