How can traffic surveys improve air quality?

It’s a hot topic both for transport professionals and for the family in the street – how do we improve air quality and how do we protect ourselves from pollution? In a month where scientists from the University of Leeds have reported that one in four child asthma cases in Bradford are linked to air pollution, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed in a number of ways – including with dedicated traffic surveys.

Quantity and quality

It’s both the quantity of traffic on the roads as well as the quality of that traffic that contributes to air pollution. In environments where there are often traffic jams with car engines idling, air quality becomes extremely poor, and those walking next to the road can breathe in harmful fumes. Perhaps surprisingly, just being more than a metre away from the road can drastically improve the quality of the air you breathe. And, just as surprisingly, if you’re in the car in a traffic jam, you can still be inhaling harmful air – so wind up the windows and turn the fans off if practical.

Quality matters too – there is a lot of information about the potential harm from diesel vehicles. So those people – and transport companies – that are changing to hybrid or completely electrical vehicles are already having a positive impact on the air quality around them.

Making roads more effective

Part of the issue in the UK is the road system itself. In many places, it’s often not fit for purpose – too many cars and not enough lanes, junctions or by-pass options. This in itself causes congestion. In addition to encouraging more people to use public transport, or walk when they might usually drive, local authorities and transport planners need to look at the road systems themselves. Solutions like smart traffic lights may be able to improve traffic flow, whilst in busy areas, speed and queues can be regulated by traffic calming measures.

The key to getting to solution right is to know how big the problem is. That’s where a high-quality traffic or journey time survey can help. Understanding the road use, the heavy-usage times and the other routes that drivers use to avoid problems will all help with better road planning, which in turn may help to improve air quality in the future.

Traffic surveys from RDS

To find out more about the way our professional traffic surveys can help your next project, talk to us today.

Classified Counts | Speed Surveys | Video Surveys | Parking Surveys | Public Transport Surveys