I’ve blogged about the unusual Greater Manchester Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) before, (https://beardsandtriathlons.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/commuting-and-air-quality/) and I’ve shown part of it once again, focusing on Wigan town centre. The green splodges are sections of the AQMA. I get to cycle through this twice a day.
The AQMA suggests that the air quality in Wigan is poor, but are there any monitored results? I’m glad you asked me that, because according to the Greater Manchester Air Quality website there are quite a few diffusion tubes in the area. I know this because I have read the 2016 Annual Status Report. This report states that because there are 260 diffusion tubes in Greater Manchester, the results are not in the report, but in an attached file and in the appendix. The attached file isn’t attached, obviously, and the appendix isn’t available online. I have emailed a couple of times, but I haven’t had a reply yet.
Without monitored results, let us assume that the air quality in Wigan is poor, hence the AQMA. So, why is the air quality in Wigan poor? Many of the buses are old and have high pollutant emissions. When London, Guildford and other more affluent areas down south invest in new buses, where do you think the old ones go? They gradually migrate north, to Wigan, Sheffield, Barnsley and eventually onto Inverness.
Buses though, only account for some of the pollution. A much larger proportion comes from cars. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to drive into Wigan, you would be able to testify to the fact that cars are everywhere. Most of them are moving slower than I do on a bicycle, with congestion and tailbacks the norm.
The above image is again Wigan town centre. In this small area there are 12 car parks, as well as on street parking on almost every road. An easy and quick win would be to close a few of them. If there is nowhere for people to park they might walk, cycle or use public transport. Alternatively, they might go somewhere else, and Wigan can’t really afford to lose jobs, shoppers or tourists. Studies have shown that non car drivers actually spend far more in local shops, so making Wigan less car centric would actually benefit the city, but just try telling that to local Councillors.
The car parks could be phased out over a number of years, in conjunction with improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, adding bus lanes and generally making the place nicer. The solution is there, right in front of our eyes.
If you design a city for cars and traffic, you’ll get a city full of cars and traffic. Why don’t we build a city for people and places?