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Traffic & Transportation Cabinet Member Encourages Cycling

Apart from speaking at Portsmouth Cycle Forum, I was also in the audience when Lynne Stagg was also speaking as the city council Cabinet Member for Traffic & Transportation Lynne Stagg. She said some sensible things about encouraging cycling including:

  • She would like to see fewer cars on the road
  • Portsmouth City Council funding from central government has been cut making changes or improvements difficult.
  • She plans to create a strategy for all forms of transport
  • Eastern road upgrade is in progress
  • The East West active route will run along Goldsmith Avenue. (The annual air report says it will run though AQMAs 6, 7 and 12 which is along Queens Road, south of Guildhall Square, Fratton Bridge. £245k is planned for “Physical improvements to key travel routes to improve permeability and encourage use of active travel modes, making walking and cycling more attractive forms of travel. To include greening of routes and tree planting and other public realm where possible”)
  • Contraflow cycling (cycling in the opposite to one way motor traffic) divides opinions of cyclists. It also only can be used if the road wide enough.
  • The council is trialling a cycling near miss reporting tool. This is used for planning safety improvements and they need more data. (News report.)
  • The possibility of using Fratton rail goods yard for transporting goods into Portsmouth without using HGVs, then loading them on to electric vehicles has been mentioned. This is only at the idea stage.
  • Kingston’s Crescent to Stubbington Avenue is a particular area of concern. However if a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is proposed, the local ward councillors probably (loudly) oppose it.

PCF is also trialling free membership to attract a wider base of cyclists. They plan to fund themselves by donations.

PS. Shout out to our friends at Zero Waste Portsmouth!


Clean Air Day, 21st June

Today is Clean Air Day. We handed in first batch of ~1150 signatures for the air quality petition to Portsmouth City Council – well done everyone! We will keep collecting them to keep pressure on!

I’m (Tim) speaking later today at Portsmouth Cycle Forum Open Meeting, Starts at 19:00, duration is 02:00 hours, Lecture Theatre 2 of the Richmond Building

As it’s @cleanairdayuk we welcome #letpompeybreathe campaign organisers to present details and facts about their campaign.

New Traffic & Transport Cabinet member Lynne Stagg will also be present to discuss the new Lib Dem administration’s approach to cycling and their plans to implement #ACitytoShare

Another reminder that our next open meeting is at 7.00pm Thursday 21st June at the University of Portsmouth Richmond…

Posted by Portsmouth Cycle Forum on Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Update: Slides from PCF presentation .odt, .pdf


2017 NO2 levels draft report published but figures misinterpreted

Big news: we have around 1200 signatures for our air quality petition. We should be able to hand in what we have so far to the city council on Clear Air Day (21st June).

News about air quality is arriving thick and fast! It’s hard to keep up some times. However, this post is going to focus on what has claimed to be news, but actually isn’t. The latest NO2 levels have been published in draft form. This has lead to reporting in The News saying:

…in the past 12 months there have been significant improvements recorded, with two-thirds of the island’s 28 monitor stations showing cleaner air compared to 11 per cent the year before.

The errors in this statement are many but subtle. The first thing to remember is that pollution levels not only depend on emission of pollution, but also on weather patterns. Each year the wind blows in different directions for varying amounts. This makes the entire regions pollution levels increase or decrease in a broadly similar way. This becomes clear if we look at the average city wide NO2 levels for the last 6 years:

While each year the level changes, the levels have actually stayed around 32μg/m3 throughout. While the 2017 level is slightly below, this is not outside of the typical natural variation due to weather. The emission levels could be thought of as a “signal” while the effect of weather could be considered as “noise”. Although it is certainly possible that emission levels have changed, the change is within the range caused by natural weather fluctuations. This means we can’t say if the slight reduction seen in 2017 is due to weather or emissions. While we welcome favourable weather, this is not a long term solution and does not make enough of a difference.

Another problem is reporting that “two-thirds of the island’s 28 monitor stations showing cleaner air”. Since all the monitoring stations are subjected to the same weather, and that weather effects have a similar or greater effect than changes to emissions, we would expect most monitoring stations to show a change in the same direction from year to year. The exact proportion tells us almost nothing about the air quality situation in Portsmouth.

Some people might remember the game show “Play Your Cards Right“. The game involves guessing if a hidden card has a higher or lower value than the previously drawn random card. The average numerical value of a card is 7, so if the previous card was a 10 it is usual to choose lower. If the previous card was a 2, the contestant should pick higher.

Similarly, if an NO2 reading is particularly high in one year (as it was in 2016, and subject to noise like weather effects), we would expect a lower value the following year (which it was in 2017). (This might be a form of regression toward the mean but I’m still trying to understand the concept.) The only way around this, apart from somehow accounting for the effect of weather, is to wait for additional data in subsequent years.

On the other hand, some individual sites show large changes. I am hesitant to call the changes significant until further analysis has been conducted, except when the pattern is in the opposite direction to most other monitoring stations. This does hint at a worsening situation in London Road, unfortunately.

This again shows a broadly constant level of pollution, with a handful of large changes in at a few sites. Here is the same data shown on an interactive graph that we named the CAPIT tool:

This clearly shows The News is wrong to claim “The only area to still be below par is the London Road corridor, in North End”. The pollution is also above the legal limit near the Catholic Cathedral (site 116).

In other news, the latest report reveals the City Council has added new NO2 monitoring tubes to many new locations: 16 in 2017 and 59 in 2018, up from 28 sites in previous years. This is very welcome as it allows Portsmouth City Council and the public to see the scale of the problem. The 2018 additions were due to DEFRA commenting on the 2017 air quality report. (Thanks DEFRA!)

The report mentions £245k being spent on an “East-West Active Travel Corridor”, which sounds promising.

The recent Parking Consultation report provides interesting reading:

An overwhelming majority (82% of respondents) view parking as problematic whereas 16% of respondents do not view parking as a concern in Portsmouth.

This is fairly obvious to anyone who has tried parking in Portsmouth. It is another symptom of Portsmouth’s over reliance on private car transport. In terms of encouraging sustainable transport:

The two main ways that bus use could be encouraged among respondents is ‘lower travel costs’ and ‘more frequent/reliable sources’ with 52% and 48% of respondents respectively.

The responses for ways of encouraging cycling across Portsmouth show that ‘Improve cycle routes’ is the most popular response with 34% of respondents selecting this option and ‘Increase/install cycle routes’ is second most common with 27% of respondents.

It seems a shame this were not sufficiently prioritized in the City Centre Road scheme.


Responding to Planning Permission for Portsmouth City Centre Road Scheme

What follows is my response to the city centre road scheme planning application. They seem to have a 2000 character limit via their online portal, which seems rather limited.

While the road scheme does includes commendable objectives such as providing cycling infrastructure, reducing traffic congestion, and improving public transport, the current design only pays lip service to the sustainable transport objectives while focusing on capacity increases for private car usage.

In UK law, the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010, Regulation 26 requires that “measures intended to ensure compliance with any relevant limit value within the shortest possible time” are enacted. The High Court also added “steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely.”

Portsmouth City Council has an opportunity to greatly improve the city centre and comply with the law, but instead has proposed a road scheme that will increase air pollution by 3.4% city wide, according to the Environmental Statement produced by wsp. This is counter productive and possibly illegal. The design needs to be completely changed to encourage sustainable transport and reduce private car usage. The scheme should also be postponed until PCC produces an ambitious air quality action plan.

Building additional road capacity will simply move the traffic congestion problem to other parts of the city and, for this reason, the scheme is flawed.

The road scheme also needs to form part of an overall city wide transport plan, that provides an overall modal shift in transportation. The scheme should incorporate the eventual total ban of new non-electric cars, expected to happen by 2040. Other European cities, including Paris, Madrid and Oslo have had success in reducing car usage by car bans in certain areas.

The opportunity to improve pedestrian and cycle safety has not been fully realized, with narrow paths often running alongside fast moving traffic.

The deadline for comments is today, 8th June.

As always, sign our petition!


Predicting the Local Impact of Portsmouth Centre Road Scheme

This post is about the local impact of city centre road scheme on NO2 pollution levels in 2026, which is the year the scheme is expected to be completed. The scheme’s effect on pollution was predicted by wsp consultants for Portsmouth City Council using computer models.

Upward (red) arrows indicate an increase in pollution, downward (green) arrows indicate a reduction in pollution. Circles indicate negligible impact. Traffic levels and vehicle efficiency are expected to change over time but this map simply compares the “with scheme” 2026 scenario with the “no scheme” 2026 scenario. This shows is the effect of the scheme itself, rather than these other traffic changes.

References: wsp consultants, City Centre Road Project, Addendum to Environmental Statement, Appendix A.6, April 2018, Revision 3

As can be seen, pollution decreases in a handful of areas, particularly at the north end of Commercial Road, and some parts of London Road/Kingston Road. However, pollution increases in many more areas, particularly around the university and Gunwharf Quays. This scheme should be of particular concern to people living and working in these areas, which are already near the legal limit for NO2 (as shown in a recent post).

The wsp report provides further detail:

The scheme is predicted to cause exceedances of the objective at two receptors (Receptor R20 – B2154 The Hard and Receptor R27 – A3 St Michael’s Road) but will reduce concentrations to below the objective at three receptors (Receptor R64 – A2047 Kingston Road, Receptor R65 – A2047 Kingston Road and Receptor R94 – Old Commercial Street) in this scenario.

The largest increase in concentrations was 5.4μg/m 3 , predicted at receptor R92 (Stanhope Road), however the “With Development” total annual mean concentration at this location was below the objective at 36.2 μg/m 3. The largest decrease in concentrations was 8.8μg/m 3 predicted at receptor R94 (Old Commercial Road), which reduces the total 2026 “Without Development” annual mean NO 2 concentration from 49.3μg/m 3 to 39.3μg/m 3.

It should be noted that although there are a small number of substantial adverse impacts predicted to occur, these all occur in the same geographical location; to the south of the Proposed Development around Stanhope Road/Edinburgh Road and the A29 St Michael’s Road.

The locations at which substantial beneficial impacts occur include receptors near to the junctions of Kingston Crescent and Lake Road. Receptors R89 (A3 Marketway) and R94 (Old Commercial Street) also see a significant drop in concentrations as a result of the new road alignment nearby.

With some areas being pushed above the 40μg/m3 legal pollution, it is arguable that the scheme violates UK air quality law. Areas that are close to or above the limit are at significant risk of health problems. The council needs to reconsider the scheme and attempt to provide significant overall reductions in NO2 levels across the city. This road scheme seems to make things generally worse.


Collecting Signatures for Air Quality Petition

Let Pompey Breathe has been out collecting signatures for our air quality petition. We had a stall that Portsmouth Film Society‘s recent Green Film Festival and we were also at Canoe Lake over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Most of the signature collectors are with Portsmouth Green Party, with Menno being particularly effective in getting signatures. Progress towards our goal of 1000 has been outstanding, and we now stand at 613 signatures! Great work!

We hope to get a debate in a full meeting of Portsmouth City Council when we reach 1000 signatures.


Current NO2 Pollution Measurements in Portsmouth

Pollution is damaging to health but not all places are equally polluted. The level of pollutants can vary substantially over the distance of several metres. It is important to know where higher levels of pollution occur in order to focus our efforts in fixing the problem, or at least in avoiding unnecessary exposure.

One key pollutant is nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Portsmouth City Council and DEFRA maintain a network of sensors around the city. This lets us see where pollution occurs, as well as variations from year to year. It takes the council several months to publish the previous year’s data, so here is the 2016 measurements on a pretty map:

Raw data: measuredno2.csv, References: Portsmouth City Council 2016 Air Quality Status Report

As we can see, pollution is particularly high along the London Road/Kingston Road/Fratton Road route. There are other pollution black spots around Hampshire Terrance and Albert Road. These locations exceed the legal limit of 40µg/m3. Most of the west side of Portsmouth is between 30-40 µg/m3, which is dangerously close to the limit and cannot risk having another significant increase in pollution.

One limiting factor is the government can only afford a limited number of sensors. We might want to know about pollution in other parts of the city. Fancy real time monitoring stations cost an absolute fortune! However, we can use traffic data, existing pollution measurements and computer modelling to predict the level of pollution in other locations. This gives us a broader picture but the results can be less accurate because they rely on the assumptions used in the computer model. Here are the predicted NO2 levels for 2015 from a recently published report:

Raw data:2026-Nitrogen_Dioxide_Results.csv receptors.csv, References: wsp consultants, City Centre Road Project, Addendum to Environmental Statement, Appendix A.6, April 2018, Revision 3

This shows pollution levels around the naval base, Gunwharf Quays, University of Portsmouth, Queen Street, Stanhope Road, Victoria Park and Old Portsmouth are worryingly high. It predicts that pollution in Southsea and Milton is relatively less severe. Annoyingly, there are few predictions for the Albert Road area (which, to be fair, is not the focus of this report). Pollution is particularly bad at busy junctions along Kingston Road and Commercial Road.

The map may give us ideas for additional air quality monitoring locations for both the council and for citizen science projects.

Although the data is a little dated, it does show the amount of work needed to make Portsmouth’s air safe to breathe. The recent grant of £450,000 from the Clean Air Fund is welcome but I do wonder what it would cost to actually solve the pollution crisis?

The next blog post will probably be on the impact of the city centre road scheme, and specifically which locations are affected.

PS. Please sign the petition!


Road Scheme to Cause Overall Increase in NO2 Pollution

I have some more detail from the city centre road scheme and its impact on air quality. The environmental report predicts NO2 levels in 2026 both with and without the road scheme at various locations around the city. This lets us see the impact of the road scheme at specific places, as well as the overall impact.

This graph compares NO2 levels with and without the road scheme. It is a little tricky to interpret, so I will try to guide you around it! Reading along the horizontal (x) axis indicates the predicted NO2 levels without the scheme. Reading along the vertical (y) axis indicates the predicted NO2 levels with the scheme. The orange diagonal corresponds to no impact. Points above the orange line indicate an increase in pollution. Points below the orange line have a decrease in pollution. Each blue point on the graph represents a single location.

It is clear that there are many more points above than below the line. This means that pollution increases in more areas than it decreases.

It is also clear that the points’ distance above the line is greater than the points’ distance below the line. This indicates an overall increase in pollution. Crunching the numbers shows it is a 3.4% increase in NO2 levels distributed around the city (a follow up post on the distribution is planned). This is bad in a city that is grappling with an air quality problem.

A few individual points are significantly away from the orange line, indicating a large localized change in NO2 levels. The location with the biggest drop is 22% and the biggest increase is 14%. This shows the scheme’s effect is quite localized with a significant part of the city being relatively unaffected.

Another interesting observation is the points below the line tend to be on the right of the graph. Also, the points above the line tend to be on the left of the graph. This indicates that most benefit is seen in already polluted areas. Also, increased pollution occurs in areas that have less pollution. Another way of looking at this is pollution is being displaced from a handful of highly polluted areas to many less polluted areas. This raises the question: is pollution better concentrated in a few areas or generally distributed? I am not sure of the answer, but I will try to find out!

As the report text notes, a few locations are pushed from below 40ug/m3 to above that limit (marked with an “A”). This is problematic as that is a legal limit which should not be breached. A handful of locations drop within the legal limit (marked with a “B”), which is a silver lining on a generally worsening picture.

The city centre road scheme is a missed opportunity to tackle the illegal levels of pollution in Portsmouth and the plan should be redrawn to emphasise less polluting options.

PS. Please sign the petition!

Update: an alternative chart of the same data, that is perhaps more intuitive, inserted on the right.



Key Quotes from Portsmouth City Centre Road Scheme (Environmental Statement)

Portsmouth City Council is planning a major capacity upgrade of the city centre roads. Here are some key sections on air pollution from the city centre road scheme environmental statement.

5.7.5. The scheme is predicted to cause exceedances of the objective at two receptors (Receptor R20–B2154 The Hard and Receptor R27-A3 St Michael’s Road) but will reduce concentrations to below the objective at three receptors (Receptor R64–A2047 Kingston Road, Receptor R65–A2047 Kingston Road and Receptor R94–Old Commercial Street) in this scenario.

5.7.7. The largest increase in concentrations was 5.4μg/m3, predicted at receptor R92 (Stanhope Road), however the “With Development” total annual mean concentration at this location was below the objective at 36.2 μg/m3. The largest decrease in concentrations was 8.8μg/m3 predicted at receptor R94 (Old Commercial Road), which reduces the total 2026 “Without Development” annual mean NO2 concentration from 49.3μg/m3 to 39.3μg/m3.

5.7.10. It should be noted that although there are a small number of substantial adverse impacts predicted to occur, these all occur in the same geographical location; to the south of the Proposed Development around Stanhope Road/Edinburgh Road and the A29 St Michael’s Road.

5.7.11. The locations at which substantial beneficial impacts occur include receptors near to the junctions of Kingston Crescent and Lake Road. Receptors R89 (A3 Marketway) and R94 (Old Commercial Street) also see a significant drop in concentrations as a result of the new road alignment nearby.

Table 5.6-2026 Scenario-Impact Significance

ImpactNumber of locations
Substantial Beneficial5
Moderate Beneficial3
Slight Beneficial1
Slight Adverse11
Moderate Adverse21
Substantial Adverse4

5.8.3. Based on the assessment significance criteria, the residual effects of the Proposed Development are considered to range from substantial beneficial to substantial adverse for NO2 and slight beneficial to negligible for PM. However, at the vast majority of assessment receptors the Proposed Development will have negligible residual effects.

The report shows air pollution will remain at dangerous levels for the foreseeable future, unless the issue is taken seriously. This scheme seems to simply ignore its illegality and is a wasted opportunity to make the air we breathe safe. Notice the number of adversely affected areas greatly outnumber the beneficial areas. More details when I read more of the report.

PS. Please sign the petition!


Air Quality News Round-up

Our petition Bring air pollution in Portsmouth within legal limits has finally launched! At 1000 signatures, a debate before the full Portsmouth City Council will occur. At the time of writing, we have 41 signatures, so please spread widely on social media. The council’s website is a bit of a hassle to navigate, but trust us: it’s worth it!😄 Please share on social media and spread to followers, particularly if you are part of a social or environmental group in Portsmouth.

I’m [Tim] going on Express PM radio later today 8:30pm-ish to talk about air pollution. Wish me luck! 😨

Portsmouth’s air quality problem is again in the news with 2.5 particulate pollution making headlines in The News: Portsmouth is still one of worst UK cities for air pollution, new data has revealed Levels of PM2.5 are still about WHO guidelines, which have been linked to respiratory illnesses. 😷

As well as the health impact, air pollution has been linked to increased crime by London School of Economics scientists. This is particularly noticed in data about less severe crimes such as pick pocketing and shop lifting. This observational study does not indicate a mechanism but other researchers have speculated that pollution may be linked to the stress hormone cortisol which affects behaviour. 😠

Since Portsmouth is a port city, it incurs pollution from shipping as well as traffic. Some of this pollution comes from ships that are berthed but powered by on board diesel generators. These could be switched to shore based electrical power, which would be greener if generated from a renewable source. This also requires infrastructure at each port, which is sadly lacking. All berth ships combined produce 1.3% of the UK’s NO2 emissions, but this is obviously much higher in port areas. (Incidentally, the impact of berthed ships on Southampton is quite shocking). 🚢

Update: also check out our new FAQ page. And the radio interview: