Central London roads to close – for a day

About 12.5 miles of road will be shut down to raise pollution awareness

This Sunday (September 22) will see a car-free day in central London when 20km (12.5 miles) of roads will be closed off in central London around Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the City of London.

Aim of the shutdown is to help reduce car emissions and raise awareness of the city’s air pollution crisis.

For commuters who have no choice but to hit the road, drivers should check check the Highways England site for alternative travel routes around the area and how to handle the increased congestion in the capital.

Road transport is one of the largest contributors to particulate emissions, which are small particulates which bypass the body’s defences against dust, penetrating deep into the respiratory system, which can lead to respiratory problems and other serious illnesses.

The World Health Organisation claims road transport is responsible for up to 30 per cent of particulate emissions in Europe, largely due to diesel traffic*. However, the Major of London claims this figure is much higher in London, where more than 50 per cent of the city’s toxic air pollution is caused by vehicles.

Candace Gerlach of breakdown rescue company Green Flag, said: “With London’s car free day approaching, it’s important to recognise the harmful effects our vehicles have on the environment, especially in congested metropolitan areas like London.

“Green Flag is dedicated to helping drivers understand this impact by sharing advice on how we can be more environmentally conscious when travelling, especially in congested cities which suffer from increased air pollution. The best way to reduce emissions is to only drive when essential, but there are unavoidable times when it’s necessary to use your car, so we’re reminding drivers of things that they can consider to limit their emissions.”

Green Flag has shared its top tips for reducing emissions when driving:

Reducing Your Emissions Tips

1. Plan your trip

Before embarking on a journey, make sure that all aspects of your trip have been researched, including any potential road closures and the best places to park to save you from aimlessly driving around looking for parking.

Also, think about fewer shorter trips. When your engine is turned on and used over time, its internal components will warm as a by-product of internal combustion; this has the knock-on effect of making fuel easier to burn.

To drive more fuel efficiently, complete all your errands in the same round trip. This will reduce your overall emissions impact compared with pursuing several shorter trips requiring cold starts. Also, consider car sharing; four people in one car is better than one person in four separate cars.

2. Check your tyres

Tyres are your vehicle’s contact with the road. If their air pressure is too low, the engine will have to work harder to compensate for the added friction, increasing exhaust emissions.

Tyres continually lose pressure, so make sure to check them at least once a fortnight to ensure they meet the required level. Use a pressure gauge, consulting your vehicle manual for the optimal tyre pressure. 

3. Ensure you check your car

Clean engine oil is vital to the longevity and performance of your vehicle. A lubricated engine is able to perform more efficiently, lowering your fuel consumption and reducing your emissions. Ensure you stick to your car’s recommended service intervals.

Similarly, air filters prevent foreign particles such as dirt and pollen entering your vehicle engine. As you run your vehicle, your filter will gradually clog up over time. This can impact the overall fuel efficiency of your vehicle, increasing your emissions per mile. The best way to ensure that air filters are renewed is to have your car serviced regularly.

4. Accelerate more smoothly

Heavy acceleration combined with stop-start driving burns the greatest amount of fuel. To ensure you are driving with optimal fuel efficiency, gradually build and reduce your speed wherever possible. You’ll keep a full tank of petrol for longer, and lower your vehicle’s emissions.

5. Limit the use of your air conditioning and heater

The air conditioning unit and heater require input from your engine, thus increasing your vehicle’s emissions. To limit emissions, run your air conditioning for two thirds of your journey but switch it off for the last third of your journey. The system will recirculate cool air despite being turned off.

6. Reduce the idle time of your engine

Idle time during periods of congestion dramatically increases vehicle emissions per mile, especially within major cities like London. 

You can reduce your overall emissions by switching your engine off completely if you’re going to be stationary for 10 seconds or more. If your engine is warm, the start cost in fuel will be less than simply sitting with the engine running. If your car has a stop-start system, ensure it is enabled.  

7. Consider the aerodynamics of your car

Opening windows adds to the vehicle drag, particularly when driving at higher speeds on the motorway. Additionally, bike racks and roof boxes will impact your vehicle’s aerodynamics, dramatically raising your vehicle’s drag. Also, don’t carry any unnecessary excess weight within the vehicle itself.

Lowering vehicle drag will improve your vehicle’s miles-per-gallon, reducing your overall emissions. Check you only open your windows when absolutely necessary; it’s more fuel efficient to run your air conditioning than to suffer the added vehicle drag. 

8. Consider the age of the vehicle you are driving

European environmental regulations have added pressure on vehicle manufacturers to meet increasingly tight emissions targets. Over time, this has ensured modern vehicles are dramatically more fuel efficient. Older vehicles, especially diesels, produce significant particulate emissions per mile.

If you are driving an older vehicle, consider reviewing modern models on the market. When considering the purchase of a new, or second-hand vehicle, compare the economy and CO2 emissions of the cars you’re looking at. Ensuring your new vehicle is economical will both reduce your weekly fuel expenses, and lower your overall exhaust emissions.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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