Birmingham is tackling air pollution, making city streets healthier and greener for residents. Voi celebrates the initiative and supports a smooth transition into the Clean Air Zone by providing reliable, green and affordable mobility for all. In celebration, we offer free unlocks to all Birmingham Voiagers.
Urban air quality has become the “new tobacco” – so said the World Health Organisation’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and that simply breathing is killing the equivalent of 7 million people a year. The World Bank in 2016 calculated that the economic burden through lives lost, ill health and reduced productivity is an astonishing $5 trillion annually.
In recent years our understanding of the impacts of air pollution has rapidly improved. We have come to realise that they fall most heavily on children, whose lung capacity can be reduced permanently by 10 per cent through growing up in polluted areas. This improved understanding has driven air quality to be one of the top environmental concerns in urban areas.
The average age of cars in the EU is around 11 years and in the UK has risen to 8.4 years, with commercial vehicles tending to operate for longer. With over 40 per cent of air pollution in our towns and cities being caused by local traffic, it’s clear that just waiting for vehicle turn-over is not going to improve air quality fast enough; local authorities are going to have to bring in measures to accelerate fleet renewal.
Clean Air Zones – a transformational policy for healthy streets
Clean Air Zones, which cover urban areas and only allow vehicles under a certain age without paying a charge, have been a staple for local governments across Europe for years. The largest and most stringent is London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which came into force almost two years ago. The ULEZ covers the centre of the city, with diesel vehicles older than around five years having to pay a daily charge. This policy has been transformational to the city’s air quality, with levels of NO2 reducing by 44 per cent within the central zone and by a substantial amount in Inner London, too.
It is, therefore, fantastic news that Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ), comes into force on 1 June. The Zone will cover all roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road but not the Middleway itself.
Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar said: “The launch of the Clean Air Zone on 1 June marks the start of our journey to cleaner air and a better Birmingham for everyone. I am not only proud to reach this momentous occasion, but also excited for what it means for the future of our city. As we get swept up in the practicalities of the zone’s operation, it’s important to remember the reasons why we are doing it and the thousands of lives this will save. We are turning the tide on our city’s health inequalities and creating a healthier future for current and future generations to thrive.”
“The Clean Air Zone represents the catalyst for change in Birmingham, as we work to move away from private cars being the automatic first choice for travel. Future initiatives such as the Birmingham Transport Plan, Air Quality Action Plan and Route to Zero scheme will see us focus on creating a healthy and more inclusive city, where we prioritise active and sustainable travel and public transport. By reallocating road space and investing in these approaches, we will be able to reduce air pollution and congestion whilst creating a safe and vibrant city centre for people to enjoy.”
Voi supports a smooth transition into Birmingham’s CAZ
As the rental e-scooter operator in Birmingham, we hope that its Clean Air Zone will also help to further encourage people out of their cars and take more sustainable modes of transport, such as walking, cycling or taking a scooter. Every week there are around 23,000 Voiagers in Birmingham and, with over a fifth of those journeys replacing a car, we reduced the number of car trips in the city by 100,000 since we started operating. That amounts to a reduction of 85 tonnes of CO2 so far, the equivalent of avoiding over 7,000 litres of petrol.
E-scooters and micromobility will be providing a safe, inexpensive and carbon-neutral way of taking those shorter journeys, supporting the arrival of the Clean Air Zone in Birmingham. “Healthier and greener cities require action from everyone, we’re happy to partner with Birmingham City Council and the local community to offer reliable and sustainable alternatives to cars,” says Matthew Pencharz, Voi’s UK Head of Policy.
To support a smooth transition and celebrate the launch of Birmingham’s CAZ, Voi is offering free unlocks to all Birmingham Voiagers on 1 June. Just download the app, make sure to grab a helmet and complete the online training before unlocking one of our coral e-scooters and enjoy the cleaner air.