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Love is in the air campaign thanks bus and cycling commuters on Valentine's Day

Giant heart message on air quality in traffic in Belfast

Sustrans air quality campaign stops traffic in busy Belfast #LoveAir. Part of the CHIPS project

Kids support air quality campaign in Belfast

Cody (7), Kurtis (5) and Pauline Bayliss from east Belfast support Sustrans air quality campaign, part of the CHIPS project.

Walkers welcome air quality campaign

Helen Montgomery and Jayne Millar, from east Belfast support air quality campaign.

13 February 2017

Sustrans and Translink have partnered on this Valentine’s Day to say ‘thank you’ to bus and cycling commuters for not polluting our air. The ‘Love Is in the Air’ campaign in Belfast aims to raise awareness of the high levels of air pollution caused mainly by car traffic.

On Valentine’s Day sleepy morning commuters will be offered chocolate hearts and red apples as they wait at a bus stop on the Upper Newtownards Road.

The bus stop is close to the busy Knock Road junction which has an air quality monitoring station checking levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO²) due to pollution from road traffic.

The air quality awareness campaign is part of a major EU-funded programme, across North West Europe, to tackle high levels of air pollution by encouraging cycling and public transport instead of car journeys.

We are the lead UK partner working on the project in east Belfast to reduce car traffic and promote sustainable transport, such as cycling on the Comber Greenway to commuters.

Tackling air pollution by staying active

Caroline Bloomfield, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the Public Health Agency, which part-funds the CHIPS initiative, said: “Encouraging people to be more physically active on their commute to work is a great way to tackle air pollution but it’s also an excellent way to give our health and wellbeing a boost. The PHA’s Choose to Live Better campaign encourages everyone to fit more activity in their daily routine. Being more active helps reduce the risk of developing obesity, many chronic conditions and improves our mental health. We’d encourage everyone to get more active: Leaving the car at home is not only better for us individually, but better for the whole community. 

Our aim is to help more people try alternatives to the car to reduce the high levels of air pollution in our city.

- Pamela Grove-White, Sustrans

Damien Bannon, Belfast Bus Area Manager said: “Given a reduction of 500 cars on the road reduces traffic queues by 3km, Translink is delighted to be partnering with Sustrans this Valentine’s Day. This event is to surprise and delight our passengers, walkers and cyclists for making healthy and active travel choices.”

Recent weeks have seen very high levels of air pollution across Northern Ireland, according to DAERA (Department for Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs), which is caused mainly by particulate matter produced by traffic emissions. Air pollution is linked to the early deaths of up to 40,000 people a year in the UK, and causes problems such as heart and lung conditions.

Pamela Grove-White, from Sustrans said: “Our aim is to help more people try alternatives to the car to reduce the high levels of air pollution in our city. We have kick-started this campaign to raise awareness of the issue, explain the benefits of cycling and public transport to everyone’s health and the environment. What better way to do this than thank the people already keeping our air clean.”

Key facts

  • The €4.4m CHIPS project (Cycle Highways Innovation for Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) which involves Belfast working with European partner countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany - over the next two years to tackle high levels of air pollution by encouraging cycling and alternatives to the car.
  • According to the Travel Survey for NI – In depth Report, in 2013-15, journeys under five miles accounted for over three fifths of all journeys made. Of these, 64% were made by car. Just over one third of all journeys were less than two miles long and a half of these journeys were taken by car. However, in pockets of Belfast where infrastructure is improving there is a growing number of cycling commuters.
  • Get tips on living better.
  • The Knock Road junction is one of 4 Air Quality Management Areas under Belfast City Council.
  • The Royal College of Physicians estimated that air pollution shortens the lives of between 29,000 - 40,000 people each year in the UK. Read more on air quality.
  • Read more about the CHIPS project.
  • Follow the campaign #LoveIsInTheAir, #LoveAir and #smartmovers on Twitter.