Comment: Smog reminder to push for green transport

Edinburgh Trams - just one example of green transport. Picture: Greg Macvean

Edinburgh Trams - just one example of green transport. Picture: Greg Macvean

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we always hope that hot summer days will be spent relaxing outdoors, eating ice cream, sipping cold drinks and cheering Andy Murray to another victory at Wimbledon.

So it comes as a bit of a rude jolt to be told that we should instead be watching the horizon for signs of a smoggy haze, worrying about the impact that it might have on us and our children’s health.

The pollution levels predicted in Edinburgh today are not the kind of off-the-scale readings that have been seen in some of Europe’s major cities over the last year or so. There won’t be the kind of smog that has made London look like a scene from an old Sherlock Holmes movie and motorway traffic certainly won’t be restricted to 20kmph as it was in Paris in the spring in an attempt to stop a spike in pollution levels.

The worst we are likely to see, according to the experts, is the kind of summer haze in the distance that we will all have seen before on particularly hot days. But the unpleasant part is the warning that what we might see is effectively a light smog caused by air pollution.

Today is not only expected to be the hottest day of the year to date but also the worst for pollution. World Health Organisation pollution limits are likely to be broken for the third time this year. Vulnerable people, such as those with heart problems, are being warned to pace themselves outdoors if they start to feel any untoward symptoms.

These kind of problems will inevitably lead to growing demands for low emission zones where the worst polluting vehicles are banned. This is a timely reminder of the importance of steps to make cycling and walking safer and more attractive in the city, as well as investing in high quality public transport, whether that is trams, buses or rail. If these steps don’t start to work though, more drastic measures will be needed.

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