Creative Commons, photo by Mall Secrets UK

We‘re still months away from World Car-Free Day (September 22) but the topic came up early with a recent rejection of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to pedestrianise a large section of the ultra-busy Oxford street.

Today, Oxford street’s terrible air quality breaches legal limits 80% of the time. In fact, since Jan 1, 2018, the Oxford St station has breached the European Union’s 24h-average 50 micrograms per cubic meter NO2 legal limit (not to be exceeded more than 35 days per year) on 127 days over 159 days since January 1st.

Getting more cars off the road means cleaner air and better health for everyone.

Plume Labs develops artificial intelligence models for the environment, that help anyone map and forecast air quality around the world. As such, we follow closely the latest trends in urban design that can help us all breathe cleaner air.

When Mark Blunden at the Evening Standard reached out for some data related to the idea of making Oxford St pedestrian, we were naturally curious about how much of an impact this could have on clean air. So we did what we do best: we turned to science and data.

Our team of atmospheric scientists repurposed our mathematical models designed for air pollution forecasting, in order to simulate what air quality would look like on Oxford St with no cars at all.

The result was quite a shocker.

Cutting cars off of Oxford St could make its air almost legal to breathe.

Our analysis shows that, if traffic were completely cut off on Oxford St, local NO2 levels along the street would drop by about 33%.

For the 159 days since January 1, 2018, this means that the Oxford St air quality monitoring station would have likely breached the legal limit on only 33 of those days, or 21% of the time instead of 80% with cars – effectively cutting the number of days with illegally poor air by four!

In other words, cutting cars off of Oxford St could make its air almost legal to breathe!

Oxford pollution map FINAL

Oxford St with traffic

Oxford Street Car Free FINAL

Oxford St without traffic

This work is more proof that reducing traffic and congestion is the surest way to cut the local emissions that plague London’s busy streets. Making Oxford St pedestrian could drastically cut levels of nitrogen oxydes, the most harmful pollutant behind the city’s burning air pollution crisis.

Improving air quality is crucial for the health of Londoners, and getting more cars off the road means cleaner air and better health for everyone.

About Plume Labs

Plume Labs is an environmental tech company that helps active commuters dodge the smog with our free Air Report mobile app and upcoming personal air pollution tracker Flow.

Our team of atmospheric and data scientists collects air quality, weather, traffic and urban data feeds to train machine learning models that estimate air pollution levels on every street. Running these models while removing traffic emissions along Oxford Street simulates what local air quality would be like along the street if it were to become pedestrian.

Get live and forecast smog reports for cities around the world in our free app (iOS /Android). Title Photo (c) Tony Webster licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.