Imagine if streets currently filled with cars and exhaust fumes were instead places where children could play safely and happily, where pedestrians and cyclists could travel without fear, and where we could all move without breathing in noxious air.
"That’s the vision we have for our cities. At present, many parts of London still suffer from illegal levels of air pollution, which is linked to a wide variety of illnesses ranging from diabetes and cancer to dementia and respiratory conditions. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable, as are pregnant women.
Mums for Lungs is a group of parents concerned about the effects of poor air quality on their families' health. We were set up a little over two years ago and now have groups across London. We believe active travel plays an absolutely key role in tackling the air pollution crisis, and that it has multiple additional benefits for public health, safety, the environment and in addressing the wider climate emergency.
One way in which parents can help is by advocating for School Streets, where roads around schools are closed to cars at drop-off and pick-up times. This pioneering idea has taken off as public concerns about children’s exposure to air pollution grows. More than 800 schools across London regularly breach air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide of 40µg/m3, while pollution exposure inside cars can be many times higher than outside. Not only do School Streets make the area around a school cleaner and safer, but they encourage parents and children to use more sustainable and active forms of transport.
A School Streets trial at a primary school in Eltham resulted in a 54% reduction in cars driving to school, a 27% increase in cycling and 9% increase in scooting. There are now dozens of School Streets across London and across the UK in cities such as Birmingham and Edinburgh, and many more going through consultation. We provide resources and support for parents who want to advocate for one in their area. Our recent STEPtember campaign also encouraged people to reduce their car use for a month and to shift to more active forms of transport. Responses from participants have been very positive. As well as these campaigns, we work to combat idling, respond to consultations that affect the mix of transport in the city and challenge misconceptions about air quality in the media. We’ve also held fabulous street parties on closed-off urban roads to show people what our cities could look, feel, sound and smell like. Maybe in the future cars coming down your street will be the exception and children playing, cycling and running will be the norm."
Mums for Lungs is a group of London parents campaigning for clean air for everyone. The group was established in Brixton in 2017, when a number of their members were on maternity leave together. Walking around South London with small babies they became aware of the toxic levels of air pollution on London’s street.
Find out more about our Campaign for Movement here.