Bike rides to ‘celebrate’ CAZ

Climate activists have welcomed the first day of Bath’s new Clean Air Zone with celebratory – and socially-distanced – bike rides around around the zone perimeter.

Wearing “I CAZ” placards, they are taking their daily activity in ones and twos to follow a route around the edges.

Bradford on Avon resident and Extinction Rebellion supporter Viv Talbot said, “People might ask if it is fair to charge businesses to drive in to Bath when they are already suffering under the dual weight of Covid and Brexit but we believe in “The Polluter Pays” principle. Businesses have to accept they have a big part to play and need to adapt to a cleaner future.” 

Louise Weissel, another Extinction Rebellion activist from Bradford on Avon said, “We know from roadside monitors that toxic air pollution exceeds safe limits in areas of Bath almost every day. And we now know there’s a direct link between this pollution and low birthweight in babies. The Clean Air Zone is a move in the right direction.”

Viv Talbot (L) and Louise Weissel (R) of Extinction Rebellion on bikes, Widcombe

Sue Sidey of Extinction Rebellion Bath said, “We wanted to say thank you to BANES Council for listening to local residents and taking this important step towards making our city a healthy and happy place. We’ve suffered from poor air quality for too many years. This is a day to celebrate.” 

Bath is the first city outside London to introduce a Clean Air Zone. There will be no charge to private vehicles but more polluting buses, heavy goods vehicles and taxis will be charged.

Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester are now working on plans to introduce their own Clean Air Zones.  

Local resident and climate activist Suzanne Hetherington said, “Some people have reservations about the Clean Air Zone but it’s the only way to go. We can’t keep on polluting our planet and we will all have to adapt to the new ways.” 

Clean Air Zones are seen to be a direct result of pressure by environmental and health groups. Concerted campaigns resulted in the Supreme Court ordering Government ministers to tackle air pollution and specifically the levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide in the air we breathe.

Nitrogen dioxide is particularly harmful and a known cause of asthma and respiratory problems. The Royal College of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates that 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK are linked to poor air quality.

In December a landmark legal ruling found that air pollution contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in south London. 

Sue Sidey of XR said, “Children deserve better than this. And we need to encourage our Council to take more steps to safeguard their health.” 

BANES Council is asking for feedback from all residents by March 21 on their Active Travel schemes to improve walking and cycling routes in Bath. The link is available on the BANES website.

Councillor Joanna Wright said, “The schemes we are proposing are designed to reduce our reliance on car use for local journeys and make it easier for us to choose walking or cycling instead. As well as encouraging sustainable travel, they will help us reach our air quality and climate emergency goals in the long term and support public health. It’s important that we hear the views of people who live, work and travel in these areas to help shape the proposals.”