Breathe Easy Thanks to Public Transit

Traffic congested cities suffer not just people stressed out in cars but the exhaust their cars toss into the air. As a result of the use of automobiles asthma and other respiratory issues increase in urban areas, leading to increased health costs and harder lives. This means that if we want people living in cities to breath easy we ought to provide more and better transit options.

A 2002 report [PDF] by the American Public Transit Association pointed out the big difference in the contribution to pollution is that, per passenger mile, public transit produces significantly less pollution than private automobiles: “only 5% as much carbon monoxide, less than 8% as many volatile organic compounds and nearly half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.” Studies have shown that children, especially if they are active outdoors in areas with high ozone levels, are more vulnerable to the pollution they inhale.

During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, more public transit was put on to ensure traffic tie-ups wouldn’t delay athletes and fans. Morning rush-hour traffic was reduced by 22.5 per cent. Consequently, daily peak ozone levels dropped by 27.9 per cent. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of incidents of children needing medical attention for asthma in that period dropped by 41 to 44 per cent.

Read more.

London Continues Eradication of Cars

Treehugger has a neat post up about London and how they are at the forefront of Western cities deterring car usage.

London is now announcing that it plans “to create a new network of quick, simple, and safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians that represents the largest investment in walking and cycling in the city’s history.”

This is not some token initiative, either. London is committed to spending US$975 million over the next ten years to implement five new programs “with the aim of having one in ten round trips in London each day made by bike, and saving some 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year .”

From Treehugger

The photo above of the bike ambulance makes me super-happy!

Germans Don’t Like Smog

Thanks to the BBCBerlin, Cologne, and Hanover have all decided to implement a neat way to make sure that their air is cleaner than other cities by using stickers. Drivers will have to buy stickers that denote how much pollution their cars emit and will be charge accordingly when driving in designated environmental zones. This is such a neat and simple idea.

Drivers now have to display a coloured sticker on their vehicle to enter the inner city zones. The colour depends on the pollutants the vehicle emits.

The cities are gradually phasing in fines of 40 euros (£29;$58) for anyone caught driving without a sticker.

Other German cities – but not all – plan to have such zones later in 2008.

The stickers – green, red or yellow – are mandatory not only for locals but also for foreign drivers, including tourists.

There is a one-off charge of five to 10 euros for the stickers, issued by Germany’s vehicle registration authority and authorised garages.

Cyclists’ Cellphones Monitor Pollutants


Bike couriers in Cambridge, UK have been given tricked-out cellphones that monitor the air pollution around them and ten report that information to a research team. What a clever way to gather this information.

The technique is made possible by small wireless pollution sensors and custom software that allows the phones to report levels of air pollutants wherever they happen to be around town.

“Mobiles are everywhere, and now have a lot of computing power,” says Eiman Kanjo, the computer scientist at Cambridge University, UK, leading technical development of the project. “They can provide an alternative to expensive custom hardware and report from places that otherwise aren’t monitored.”

Kanjo and colleagues gave local cycle couriers air-pollution sensors and GPS units that connect to their cellphones via Bluetooth. Custom software lets the phone constantly report the current air quality and location to servers back in the lab.

“They cycle around the city as usual and we receive the data over the cellphone network,” says Kanjo. “We can find out what pollutants people are exposed to and where.”

Greenbox for Green Driving

Three fishing men from Northern Wales have invented a device that removes upwards of 95% of greenhouse gas emissions from an automobile. It’s called the Greenbox and it replaces the muffler of the car and is designed to be removable so new filters can be swapped in. The reason that the Greenbox needs to be swapped is because the gasses that it traps can be used to encourage algae growth – to make biofuel.

Can this invention get any better?

We’ve managed to develop a way to successfully capture a majority of the emissions from the dirtiest motor we could find,” Palmer, who has consulted for organizations including the World Health Organisation and GlaxoSmithKline, told Reuters

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