What do we want? A clean air cloud please.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post asks you if you know about the clean air cloud coming to London on Saturday 22 September – world car free day. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

I write this at bedtime listening to Nell my 11 year old daughter check her peak flow. She’s like many London children, someone with asthma who needs to takes a puff measurement twice a day. “Have you got your asthma medicine,” is asked endlessly in our house. We dare not let her leave home without it.

The thing is, I love Islington where Nell was born and still lives.

Just before her big sister Lola was born (in 1998) my book The Estate We’re In: who’s driving car culture? was published. By coincidence it is being re-released as an ebook on 11 October, see here. It’s strange how little has changed in 14 years – cars are still king, despite wonderful inventions like car club cars, Oyster cards, Boris bikes, super-duper trainers and even better buggies for the babies.

My family still does not have a car – well why would we in central London? We do a lot of rushing and pottering around Islington on a bike, with the dog or the kids, so I know its parks, playgrounds and polluted places well.

It  makes me mad to know just how polluted Islington is. The price we pay for living here in central London is what, virtual smoking of a packet of fags a day? Everyone knows the bad effects of smoking , which we can choose to do or not. Yet few of us make any fuss about the increasingly poor air quality in London. And if we’ve got kids with asthma we’re often too wrapped up in their health problems to make any fuss at all. But we really need to complain more. And because I feel like that I plan to celebrate International Car Free Day on Saturday 22 September (soon!) with the wonderful campaigners at Climate Rush who are coming to Islington to help highlight Islington’s dirty little secret – it’s one of  London’s most polluted boroughs.

Dress code blue and white – just as a clean air cloud (see pic above) should look.  For more info about the problem, and what’s happening read on… Otherwise, see you there.

This is an extract from a climate rush blog about air quality:

Young children in pushchairs are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on busy roads because they are much closer to the source of pollution, the exhaust fumes. It is estimated that up to 30% of childhood asthma is caused by poor air quality – a terrifying statistic bearing in mind that 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day and a total of 2,270 schools within 400 metres of such roads.

This Saturday (22 Sep 2012), take a guided tour of Islington’s most polluted places, schools and residential areas, parking along the way and carrying out fun family friendly car-free activities.

Join Climate Rush in Laycock Street Park (Playground) at 11am to take part in the tour; they aim to finish in Highbury Fields at around 2pm.

Support the idea of cleaner air and less cars on London’s streets, share cars with your neighbours, campaign for a better cycling infrastructure built and walk a little bit more.#cleanaircloud

Apparently the running costs for an average car is around £3000 a year. Think if you shared a car with your 3 best friends how much money you would save :-)

Follow twitter.com/ClimateRush and don’t forget to use the hashtag #cleanaircloud

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5 Comments on “What do we want? A clean air cloud please.”


  1. A bit behind on some of my blog reading, and only just read this one – I hope it went well yesterday then! Some of those statistics are definitely shocking.

    I can imagine it to be particularly frustrating for you who advocates green, eco-friendly living, to then know that a lot of your personal efforts for yourself and your family are partly undone by the pollution around you.

    • nicola baird Says:

      Hi Vanessa, thanks for this. Car Free Day is soooo small compared to a few years ago. It’s shocking really but I think some of the people who were involved in the UK and had their awareness raised are now involved in good solution work like Transition Towns, and other local-focus initiatives. I try to work on the principle of do the least harm/every child matters so my frustrations tend to be less pronounced than you’d think because there are always ways to improve what we as a family do. But progress is so slow and there is so much resistance to understanding about climate change (and of course air pollution is a part of that). I’m not sure drivers know that cars are 2-3 times more polluted inside than out. If they did I reckon more city families would walk to school. Nicola


      • My partner is much more passionate about green causes than I am (sorry, but I’m getting there because of him!). He always expresses how he can’t understand why environmental issues aren’t the top priorities for all political parties because if we don’t have a planet we can live on then everything else is irrelevant!

  2. stephanie Says:

    Hi Nicola, It is scary how many health problems are caused by air pollution! We have ‘walk to school day’ in Australia, which aims to make people consider leaving the car at home on a regular basis. Also, car sharing systems are becoming more popular. Every little bit helps.

    • homemadekids Says:

      Thanks Stephanie for your comments. As a family we don’t fly very often. We made an exception last year (after 10 years not using a plane) and spent three months away from the UK – mostly in Solomon Islands but also Australia. I was impressed by Adelaide’s tram, and also Perth’s train system down the middle of the highway (I forget which side of town this was, but we were in Scarborough) with great bus links too. But Oz is so big and it is clearly so tempting to drive when there’s seemingly so little traffic. In contrast it’s no fun driving in a crowded city like London – that helps lots of people think of different ways to get to where they want to go (eg, schools/college/work/shops). Good luck with the walk to school day/s. The more kids think it is normal to use their feet the better for their health and the planets…


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