Cornwall Council is calling on drivers to help cut air pollution by switching off their engines when stationary and to try swapping short car journeys for cycling or walking.
As part of Clean Air Day on Thursday, June 16, the council is asking motorists to avoid keeping their engines running when waiting for children outside schools, sitting in gridlocked traffic and waiting at railway level crossings.
Its message to residents to ‘help your lungs, do not idle and #BeAirAware’ is being displayed on electronic road signs along busy roads in six towns across Cornwall.
The council is also asking people to pledge to walk and cycle more to cut down on emissions.
Environmental protection officers are carrying out anti-idling patrols near schools and level crossings to raise awareness of the harmful effects of engine idling on people’s health, the environment as well fuel wastage.
Councillor Martyn Alvey, Cornwall’s cabinet member for environment and climate change, said: “We can all play a part in reducing air pollution where we live. If you are driving remember to turn off your engine if you’re stationary for more than a minute. This is because an idling vehicle produces up to 150 balloons of harmful exhaust emissions per minute.
“Children are particularly at risk from the effects of idling vehicles because they are closer to the exhaust fumes. Switching off your engine while stationary will improve air quality as well as your own health and save you money.
“If you can, leave your car at home for short distance trips and look at walking or cycling, or taking public transport for longer journeys, even if it is just swapping one car journey a week to a greener mode of transport.”
Louise Hussey, head of St Catherine’s School in Launceston, said: “We are really committed to promoting active travel to school. Our pupils are passionate about taking positive climate action and are always keen to take an active role in campaigning.
“The school run times outside always present challenges for safety, pollution and our school neighbours so we are pleased to be joining in with Clean Air Day and the anti-idling campaign to try to improve this for our community.”
Air quality is classed as very good in Cornwall but there are nine Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) due to high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air with 80% of this is caused by road traffic.
Car drivers can be exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist.
As well as harmful health and environmental effects idling is also an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 with councils having powers to issue a fixed penalty notice on idling vehicles Under the Road Traffic Regulation 2002.
You can log any active travel or public transport journey you make in the Cornwall Active Travel Challenge, whether it’s your regular commute, trip to the shops, lunchtime walks or rides, the school run or work trip.
Story added June 15, 2022