Air quality

Air pollution is the leading public health crisis in the UK today and it is hitting children, people with a lung condition and the elderly the hardest.

We need to act now to reduce the number of polluting motor vehicles on our roads, and make it easier for people to walk and cycle.

Heavily congested traffic

Our position on improving air quality

Air pollution is damaging our environment and our health. Up to 36,000 early deaths are attributable to air pollution each year in the UK and road transport is responsible for 80% of the pollution where legal limits are being broken.

The consequences for our health and environment from air pollution are avoidable. If we improve air quality, we improve quality of life for everyone.

Our position on improving air quality

What the children think

During the 2021 Sustrans Big Pedal we commissioned a YouGov poll that surveyed 1,305 pupils aged six to 15 years old across the UK.

The results of this survey highlighted a big increase in children's concerns over air pollution.

And the responsibility we have to create a healthier, greener and fairer society for the generation coming after us.

These pupils told us how they feel about air pollution and what they think we should do about it.

“I think air pollution is bad because it destroys the environment and it destroys people’s health."

Making the case for change

The Sustrans and Eunomia model

Working in partnership with environmental consultancy Eunomia, we have developed a first-of-its-kind model that measures the benefits that reducing motor emissions by shifting to walking or cycling makes to air quality.

The model calculates that if both England and Scotland reached their respective official goals to get more people to walk and cycle, in addition to the benefits to public health, it could save the economy £9.31 billion over ten years.

Download the Sustrans/Eunomia report: Air Quality Benefits of Active Travel.


The role of walking and cycling in solving the UK's air quality crisis

This handy summary of the new model outlines the air quality problem, current situation, Sustrans' modelling and offers recommendations for policymakers.

Download the Role of walking and cycling in solving the UK's air quality crisis briefing note.


Actively improving air quality - Sustrans roundtable report

An “Actively Improving Air Quality” report from a roundtable we held with local authorities and Chris Boardman, in his role as Greater Manchester’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner.

This report sets out ten recommendations for the UK and local Governments, and charities working in the field, to help tackle air pollution.

Download the Actively improving air quality briefing note.


If you would like to understand more about the links between air quality and active travel, please get in touch.
Rachel White

Rachel White

Head of Public Affairs at Sustrans

Andy Cope

Director of Evidence and Insight at Sustrans