It has become a matter of public knowledge that pollution is unhealthy, both for the planet and for those who call it home. A sign outside the community centre warns against idling. A teacher tells you to turn off the car in the school drop-off lane. We try to protect our children from the harmful effects of pollution, and rightfully so! So why are we so quick to forget this on our commute? Don’t we also need protecting? We do, and its about time we became our own advocates!
The Harmful Effects
According to a Harvard study, the pollution produced by traffic congestion is no longer just a concern. Now, it is scientifically proven to kill. As the first report to actually attach numbers to the problem, it observes that air pollution caused by traffic congestion contributes to 2,200 deaths and costs $18 billion in healthcare yearly in the US. While there are many other frightening stats surrounding this issue, the message is clear: no one is safe. You might be saying to yourself “but I bike to work, so this doesn’t affect me”. While you may not be directly contributing to the issue, if you bike along roadways you are inhaling the same fumes. Air pollution applies to everyone, not just the culprits.
What Can We Do?
Fortunately, it is simple for cities to start mitigating this problem. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) suggests that there are multiple strategies that can help reduce congestion-related pollution, all of which link back to understanding how traffic flows in different areas. As cities and traffic researchers find new ways to collect and analyze traffic data, air pollution related to traffic congestion will begin to disappear.
By finding ways to minimize the issues at the core of congestion, we move towards less polluted cities and, by default, healthier citizens. In the same study by the TRB, they mention how CO2 emissions were reduced by almost 20% in their test area of Southern California. This shows just how impactful congestion is, and how simple it is to solve once we have the right resources. Knowledge truly is power, and with the right information, solutions are not far away!