Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Don't use the car for a day

Don't use the car for a day

RESIDENTS and visitors to Henley are being asked to leave their vehicles at home for a day.

Instead, they are being encouraged to walk or cycle into town on Sunday, September 22, which is World Car Free Day.

Reading Buses’ gas-powered town bus will be free to use from 10am to 5pm on all routes.

The initiative is being organised by environmental pressure group Henley in Transition and its Clean Air for Henley campaign group and Henley Town Council with the support of South Oxfordshire District Council.

Campaigner David Dickie, of St Katherine’s Road, Henley, said: “We’re trying to get people to think of other ways of moving about the town without using vehicles.

“My hope is that people realise that using vehicles in the centre of town is causing the high pollution levels we have got. It’s harming the health of children and I would like to see Henley a better place.

“Think again before you drive — you’re harming the children.”

Nitrogen dioxide and fuel particulates cause respiratory illnesses and Henley has not met the European level of legal emissions for more than a decade.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide in some town streets are 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

“We need a behaviour change,” said Mr Dickie. “I think if people start to understand it a bit more they, like me, would want to see change. Henley’s problem is all the narrow streets like canyons and the air flow doesn’t take away the pollution so it sits there.

“The real solution is to not have vehicles and at least start with the worst polluting ones which, overall, are diesel.

“Queuing traffic is also a problem — they (vehicles) are sitting still but still polluting. We need to work out a method to prevent queuing traffic, which I believe is a pedestrian priority town with no traffic lights.”

Mr Dickie said he would like to see a monthly car-free day in the town and out-of-town car parks being used more and people being bussed in or using other means for the final part of their journey.

He visited Henley’s four state and two independent primary schools as well as Sonning Common Primary School to speak about the problem and found a quarter of pupils needed inhalers.

“That’s a disaster,” he said. “I just find that terrible. If your child has got asthma and is using an inhaler this car-free day is for you.”

The initiative is one of many the town council is pursuing to improve air quality in Henley.

Its transport strategy group is asking the district council for more than £43,000 for measures it has devised as well as contributing £110,000 itself.

These include four new cycle routes designed to encourage people to use a bike rather than the car for short journeys and signs informing people of the time it would take to walk to the town centre from various locations.

The town council will conduct a pilot study to detect the amount of microscopic carbon particles in the air, which come mostly from diesel exhaust emissions.

It would also like more charging points for electric vehicles. The existing points in the King’s Road car park are well used, with more than 650 separate charging sessions taking place in the six months to November 8 last year. There would be two more in the King’s Road car park and four in the Greys Road car park.

The council also wants to start a car club with two electric cars for people to use rather than their own cars.

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