Dementia, pollution and blissful ignorance…

It’s not often we get angry, but daily exposure to the “news” is having a detrimental effect on our mental health. The “news” may just be reaching peak idiocy.

This week we read reports to suggest that the prevalence of dementia appears to be higher near busy roads. This distressing illness robs people of their lives and families of their loved ones. It’s incurable but it does look like it may be, at least in part, caused by our transport choices and the way planners have given our cities over to the car.

As many as 11% of dementia cases in people living within 50m of a major road could be down to traffic, the study suggests.

The researchers, who followed nearly 2m people in Canada over 11 years, say air pollution or noisy traffic could be contributing to the brain’s decline.

Source: Dementia rates ‘higher near busy roads’ – BBC News

As if that wasn’t bad enough, one area of London breached the annual pollution limit within 7 days. Seven DAYS!

Under EU law hourly levels of NO2, mostly caused by diesel vehicles, must not exceed 200 micrograms per cubic metre more than 18 times in a year. On 5 January Brixton Road had exceeded this annual limit by 17 hours, according to the London Air Quality Network at King’s College London.

Source: Brixton Road breaches annual air pollution limit in five days – BBC News

It doesn’t matter how you dress this up, it’s bad news. Now, you would imagine that there would be widespread condemnation of the root cause of this pollution –motor traffic, but no. Instead, there was an article concerned that we might have reached “peak car” and that the impact of leaving the EU may push the price of cars up. Oh no, how terrible. It’s a bit like a drug dealer complaining we might have reached peak heroin. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for their plight.

Sadly, it gets worse. There was the suggestion that rather than take swift action to address the causes of this pollution, children should be kept indoors instead –to get fat(ter), presumably.

Former Labour Party chair Baroness Jones wants all schools and playgrounds to be fitted with air monitors so teachers can decide when it is safe for pupils to play outside.

Source: London air pollution ‘means children should be banned from playgrounds’ | London Evening Standard

We’re not quite sure what to say here, at least not without a tirade of expletives and some punching of walls.

It’s no surprise…

Indeed, we shouldn’t be surprised. We wrote a whole article talking about why nothing ever changes, but it doesn’t make this seemingly conscious refusal to see the bigger picture any easier to take.

If you remove the traffic, the pollution goes away and children can continue to play outside and help stave off that other ticking lifestyle-related time bomb –obesity and type 2 diabetes. If the traffic goes away, people have to get around under their own steam at least some of the way.

But we’re not doing that. We’re continuing to pander to the car; we’re continuing to shorten the lives of everyone whether they drive or not. We allow active travel schemes to be derailed by objections from motorists, but we force through motoring schemes whether anyone objects or not.

Whilst these news articles don’t directly affect Cardiff, we have our problems here too. Today we discovered via the Cardiff Cycle Campaign Facebook group that the Royal Hotel Cardiff has launched a petition on Change.org to keep Cardiff car-friendly.

We believe car access is essential to effectively use Cardiff central train station, to get to work, to gain access to shops and services in this area and to support the employment created by businesses in this area.

Source: Petition · Cardiff Councillors: Keep Cardiff City Centre Car Friendly and replace parking spaces lost through demolition · Change.org

It points to a few questionable articles suggesting that cars are greener than public transport, comparing the Nitrogen Oxide emissions from buses with cars. They argue that because the buses used in the example were under capacity (because the people were in their cars), the emissions levels made the car the greener choice.

They of course ignore the idea that buses become far less efficient on streets cluttered with mostly single-occupancy cars when the drivers should be sat on the bus instead.

Keeping Cardiff car-friendly is generally bad news for us, whether we cycle or not. It’s also worth noting that the Royal Hotel is on a pedestrianised street. We wonder what their view would be if their guests had to put up with busy traffic all night.

So, a slightly depressing start to 2017, but at least the consultation on the integrated network maps is now open.

Gavin

Bike commuter, randonneur and cat wrangler

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