Cllr Champion on her bike on Cycleway 38 North

Council marks World Car Free Day by announcing air quality improvement

Islington Council is marking World Car Free Day by announcing an improvement in air quality across the borough, reflecting the positive impact of efforts to create a cleaner, greener, healthier Islington.   

Air pollution is a public health crisis, with around 9,000 premature deaths believed to be caused by air pollution, and many more people being affected by ill health, including children. This makes tackling air pollution an urgent priority, and doing so supports the council's efforts to create a more equal Islington. 

The council is aware of the impact that motor vehicle traffic has on air pollution. Measures such as the introduction of seven people-friendly streets neighbourhoods and 35 School Streets, covering 36 schools, are designed to help improve air quality across the borough, and to create more pleasant streets for walking, cycling, and using buggies and wheelchairs.  

Figures published today in Islington’s Annual Air Quality report reflect the positive impact of measures to reduce motor vehicle traffic emissions. The report reveals that nitrogen dioxide levels measured below the legal limit of 40µg/m3 in 2021 - the most recent year where data was available - at all of the borough’s urban background and roadside monitoring sites for the second time ever. The first time this happened was in 2020, when figures were likely to have been impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns.  

Despite the encouraging results, the council knows it must continue to do more to tackle air pollution and create a cleaner, greener, healthier future. Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published new guidance on air pollution, suggesting a 10µg/m3 target.   

The council will continue to work tirelessly to try to meet this ambitious target and create a more environmentally-friendly borough, including by:  

  • On Monday (26 September), a new School Street outside Highbury Quadrant Primary School goes live. The decision to introduce the scheme follows a public consultation, and monitoring data showing high traffic levels on Highbury New Park at drop-off and pick-up times.          
  • Having introduced a package of environmental improvements at two primary schools on main roads, the council has started engaging with local people on introducing similar improvements at Montem Primary School, Samuel Rhodes Primary School, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, and Robert Blair Primary School.          
  • In line with its long-term vision for cleaner, greener, healthier streets, the council will soon start engagement with local people on further borough-wide measures to reduce traffic, to make walking, cycling, and using buggies and wheelchairs easier.       
  • Temporarily closing roads through the council’s Play Streets scheme to promote children’s health and wellbeing, and to highlight the positive impact that car-free streets can make.     

The Annual Air Quality report includes air quality data from 72 monitoring sites outside schools, with air pollution averaging at 22μg/m3 in 2021. This is an improvement from the 31μg/m3 measurement in 2019, the year before the council's School Streets programme was significantly accelerated.        

It also reveals an air quality improvement, in line with borough-wide trends, in each of Islington’s seven people-friendly streets neighbourhoods and on surrounding boundary roads between 2019, the year before they were introduced, and 2021.    

Meanwhile, the Islington Transport Strategy Annual Monitoring Report, which has been published separately today to mark World Car Free Day, shows how traffic within people-friendly streets neighbourhoods fell 64% during the first 12 months after each neighbourhood was introduced, with cycle volumes rising by 49% within neighbourhoods.   

Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality, and Transport, said: “We are very pleased that Islington’s air quality continues to improve and that action taken here and across London to cut air pollution is paying dividends, with huge benefits to the health and wellbeing of local people. 

“The improvements we’ve seen to air quality right across Islington are hugely encouraging. But, with air pollution still causing thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, further efforts to cut the main sources of emissions remain an urgent priority. 

“As we work to clean up our air and tackle the climate emergency, World Car Free Day is a fantastic opportunity to reimagine our city streets as a place for people and nature. We’ll continue take the bold steps needed to make it easier to walk, wheel and cycle around our borough, while improving the quality of the air we all breathe.” 

Alongside analysts from the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College London - commissioned through Imperial Projects - the council has also produced reports on solid fuel burning and indoor pollution on canal and river boats in the borough, to help identify ways to further improve air quality.

Notes to editors

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns on traffic volumes in 2020, data from 2019 is more accurately comparable with the latest data from 2021, and reflects longer-term trends. Results from 2020 can be found within the Annual Air Quality report.   

Contact information

If you are a member of the public with a general question about the council please view the contact information on our website or call 020 7527 2000.