Sustrans are taking part in a wide range of activities across Northern Ireland to promote Clean Air Day on Thursday. Clean Air Day is a national campaign to raise awareness of the problems caused by poor air quality.
To mark the day, Sustrans are inviting people to ditch the car for the day and either walk, cycle or take public transport in an effort to lower air pollution levels.
In East Belfast at CS Lewis Square you can take part in some fun activities including a pedal-powered smoothie bike or a Geocache Walk and fill out a pledge card on what you will change for Clean Air Day.
The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast continually has congestion and car parking problems that contribute to poor air quality in the area, Sustrans Workplaces team will be at the hospital and encouraging staff to walk, cycle to work or use public transport.
In Derry and Londonderry, Sustrans are supporting Derry City and Strabane District Council in their campaign to lower air pollution levels in the North West. There will be on-street promotions in both Strabane and at the Foyle Arena, as well as a lunchtime walk for Council staff.
Sustrans volunteers will also have a street presence in Armagh, which was found to have the worst particulate air pollution in Northern Ireland according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2017. The WHO surveyed the air quality of the UK's 51 towns and cities. It found 44 failed the test for fine sooty particles smaller than 2.5 microns across that have been linked to heart disease and premature death.
Armagh was the worst in Northern Ireland with 14 micrograms per cubic metre. Belfast was next on 12 with Derry next on 11 micrograms per cubic metre. London and Leeds both had 15 micrograms of the particles in every cubic metre-sized parcel of air.
Air quality is becoming an increasing problem in towns and cities across Northern Ireland, it is not only damaging our environment but also our health. Every year, up to 36,000 people die from air pollution in the UK.
Anne Madden from Sustrans said: “Road traffic is a major cause of air pollution which is damaging our health and the environment. We need urgent action by the government to reduce air pollution. Governments need to do more to encourage less car use, invest in public transport and cycling infrastructure; and enable more people to walk and cycle for their everyday journeys. We believe government must take a 'fewer not just cleaner' approach to motor traffic.”
There are some simple steps you can take that will have a big impact on the air you and your family breathes. Making cleaner travel choices is just one way to make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.
What will you pledge for Clean Air Day?