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Congestion Pricing in London Improves Public Health, Study Finds

london.jpgCongestion pricing is good for the environment and public health. Photo by dlisbona.

A team of scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and King’s College London conducted a study showing that London’s congestion pricing scheme has reduced air pollution in central London, saving Londoners as a whole 1888 extra years of life. The study focused on two types of pollutants from cars: NO2, a chemical compound known to cause acute and chronic bronchitis, and particulate matter (PM10), tiny particles suspended in the air which can become embedded in the lungs, causing asthma and bronchitis.

The authors of the study, which was published in the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, are hardly sanguine about their results, noting that overall London saw only “modest” reductions in NO2 and PM10 levels. However, they also point out that, “Absolute and relative reductions in NO2 and PM10 were greatest within the congestion charging zone wards,” suggesting that an expansion of the zone would have an even greater environmental and health impact.

The public health dimension of the study puts a new spin on Mayor Ken Livingston’s environmental initiatives, like bike sharing and pedestrianization, which he has linked to his campaign to fight global warming. “Evidence from epidemiological research indicates exposure to traffic is associated with a number of adverse health impacts including mortality, myocardial infarction, and impaired lung development in children,” the researchers warn.

Read the study – “Air pollution and mortality benefits of the London Congestion Charge: spatial and socioeconomic inequalities” – here.

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  • Robert Threadgold

    Have none of the voters that voted recently to scrap the western extension read or heard of this report?

    Why do people continue to bury their heads in the sand when all the evidence of the damage done by emmisions is out there and clearly accessible?

    If traders are finding it hard to remain in business because of the western congestion charge then why are they not offering bargains/reduced prices to loyal customers or anything that will fend off large multi chains from taking their pitch? A good place to start would be to lower their prices for goods as many shops within this area already charge exorbitant prices.

    Thanks for sharing the report and thanks for allowing me to share my views. Any additional comments would be much appreciated.

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  • Hegedus Marius, Resita, Romania,,

    Searching worldwide ideas, solutions to the problem of congestion with vehicles of the urban environement, I found Your site with this and many other articles. I dare to present comments on some european documents/ researches, underlining some motives (from my country’s reality) for sustaining a european legislation to disseminate London’s and other positive experiences.

    Considerations/ proposals about urban transport problems (congestion), reffering to the “Green paper- Towards a new culture for urban mobility” adopted by the European Comission in 25 sept 2007, to the official position of Eurocities and to the 2002-2006 EU research programm ” New Technologies and Concepts for all Surface Transport Modes”, posted on

    As simple EU/ Romanian citizen, living in the relatively small (80…90,000 inhabitants) town of Resita, as final beneficiary of the upper documents/ programms, I tried to imagine a possible impact scenario. I am also very proud that the Transpower project, p.131, had/ has as partners the Sibiu and Timisoara city halls. My town, Resita is only 100 km from Timisoara and it happens that very often I am travelling to Timisoara with my personal car.
    The congestion problem in Timisoara and Resita, as probably in the majority of european settlements and all over the world too, is dramatic. Even if mooving on foot in some areas seems to be the most efficient solution, it is a very dangerous one, because of the cars often parked on the pedestians’ space.
    The first document evidentiates the “urban pricing” solution and Connect, Fideus and Host programmes are mentioning the urban congestion problem, reffering in various contexts to “possibilities to reduce (gasoline fuelled) private traffic”(Connect), to ” best use of existing infrastructures, reducing the occupation of urban space” and “allow the city to be reclaimed by the pedestrians” (Fideus). In this spirit can be completed the strategies of discouraging the individual urban displacements with the big personal cars by a tax proportional with the ground surface of the vehicles.
    It is a reality that the classic family cars are becoming more and more accesible to very many people and that frequently very many single utilisers of those vehicles are occupying each 8…10 sqm of urban infrastructure for their individual deplacements. Taxating the occupied surface and financing rational solutions as those mentioned in the upper projects seems an honest approach of urban solidarity. On the other hand no one will renounce to the advantages of a personal car/ deplacement without beeing forced.
    Another problem, at least in romanian cities I know, with severe implication in destroying the green urban environement, is the fact that still huge funds are/ will be invested for enlarging the infrastructure for more personal cars (streets, parkplaces, etc.), instead sanctioning/ taxating their often unadequated utilisation.
    The official position of the Eurocities organization, regarding the “Green Paper…” is to not encourage legal reglementations at EU level, for more flexibility of local decisions. However, in my oppinion, if there will be made local mistakes, the damages that they can cause to those environements and not only, will be irremediable.

    As possible “innovative solution”, among the many other ones, I thought at reconsidering the microautomobiles, but for very small ground dimensions ( ~2m x ~1m) they must assure the same functionality like a normal sized family car. Their characteristics: 3-5 places and/ or 350- 700 l trunck, under 400 kg weight, under 15 kW power, over 80-90 km/h top speed, low cost (3…5000 Euro), motorcvadricycle EEC certification. Such dimensions, for the majority of vehicles from an urban area, can assure an almost 4 x growth of the parking and traffic capacity of the existing uban infrastructure. Also, under a 10 floors dwelling building, could be parked all such vehicles owned by each second inhabitant, considering an averidge dwelling density.
    The upper idea is based on a closed cabin solution, with a strength structure very similar to a classic scooter/ ATV and having the mentioned ground dimensions (~2- 2,3m x ~1m) and transport capacity. The rest of the vehicle can be taken from an ordinary, serial, adequated ATV/ motorcycle (similar advantages like the platforming/ modularization principle at the big car makers).

    With the conviction that the upper aspects can lead worldwide to a healthier and better urban environement,
    I assure You of my deepest consideration,

    Marius Hegedus

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  • Diego Santos

    This reminded me of Bianca Focante’s personal exposure project in Porto Alegre, Brazil. But what I found interesting, from the communication point of view, was the fact of the mayor responding to people what will be done. That’s not very common here in Brazil.