Published on 12/06/18

Clean Air Day 2018: How Business District workers ditched the car to tackle Birmingham’s air pollution problems

Colmore Business District ‘Travel Leaders’ have revealed how they have completely changed the way they travel to help tackle Birmingham’s alarming levels of air pollution and raise awareness of Clean Air Day.

The Business District workers have ditched their cars in favour of cycling or public transport to get to and from the office after learning more about Birmingham’s air pollution problems.

It is hoped that by volunteering to share their stories as Colmore BID Travel Leaders, Jaimon George of Zen Metro Thai Restaurant & Bar, Anna Newey of Mott Macdonald and Tony Green of Hortons’ Estate will inspire other city centre employees to consider changing their behaviour to coincide with Clean Air Day on Thursday, June 21.

Co-ordinated by Global Action Plan, Clean Air Day is a chance for businesses, schools and other organisations to learn more about air pollution and how it can be improved.

Colmore BID, the Business Improvement District for the Colmore Row area, is hosting a series of events and initiatives to raise awareness of the issues surrounding poor air quality and how small changes in behaviour at home or at work can help.

Birmingham is one of the worst-hit areas outside London for dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution with studies by Public Health England warning that air pollution is responsible for hundreds of deaths each year in the city.

Amazingly, car drivers can be exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist.

The Colmore Row area has been designated a Green Travel District as part of a project aimed at transforming Birmingham business life.

The BID’s Clean Air Fortnight will take place between Monday June 11-Friday June 22 and feature:

  • National Express advice on how to access corporate initiatives such as discounted travel for apprentices or day bus passes for sharing (Tuesday, June 19, Victoria Square).
  • An RSPB picnic in Church Street Square with special lunch boxes and deckchairs to relax in (Thursday, June 21. Subject to availability. Visit colmorebusinessdistrict.com/event/clean-air-day-picnic/)

Here, the Colmore BID Travel Leaders explain more about how they have changed their commutes for greener options and how it is inspiring colleagues to do the same:

Jaimon George, Managing Director, Zen Metro Thai Restaurant & Bar, Cornwall Street, and Colmore BID board member:

“I used to drive to work but everything was slowing down with congestion and more cars on the road. Plus, I found that I increasingly care about air quality as an issue having heard it talked about a lot at Colmore BID.

“I come in to work from Great Barr and, using the same route as the car, it is quicker by bike.

“I have an electric bike. The battery is switchable as you cycle along – I tend to charge it up at home every other day.

“It’s cool to cycle and I am definitely fitter cycling a 12-mile round trip every day!”

Has Jaimon’s change in the way he commutes inspired the Zen Metro team?

“Yes, the restaurant manager had a car and is looking at the same route via bike, one chef cycles and other two chefs are now using the bus.”

Anna Newey, Transport Planner at the Newhall Street office of engineering consultancy Mott Macdonald:

“When I moved to Birmingham I gave up the car. I started taking the bus and cycling to work and about six months after I moved I got a hand-me-down car from my family,” said Anna.

“I found I really never used it and when I did it broke down, almost monthly, so sent it to the scrap heap! Since doing that I have not owned a car, I joined a car club at one point and used that a couple of times but again, not enough to justify membership so didn’t renew it.”

“The main reason I wanted to cycle is that I didn’t want to be stuck in congestion, or in trains that often seemed overcrowded and enjoyed cycling along the canals and through the parks to work. “Although I am environmentally aware, for me it was also about combining exercise into my everyday life, as I do spend most of the days at work sat down at a desk.

“When I get to work at Mott Macdonald in Newhall Street I can shower, and lock up my bike in safe storage in the basement car park.

“During the working day we are encouraged to use sustainable transport options to move around the city and beyond for our projects, for example we use the Brompton hire bikes that are dotted around Birmingham.”

Tony Green, CEO of Hortons’ Estate Limited, BID board member, serving on the Accessible & Connected working group:

“When I use the car for work it is a seven-mile drive from Sutton Coldfield. I tend to leave the car in a car park in the city centre for the day then spend an hour driving home.

“Sitting in a jam nose-to-tail isn’t productive or good for the environment and when I joined the Accessible & Connected working group at the BID our task was to look at making the city and its air quality and congestion better.

“The train is not viable as the station is some distance away, so I wanted to see what the alternatives could be.

“I thought buses were not for me and I was not sure I would have the right change for each journey. But, the Platinum buses are comfortable and clean and the Swift card is a winner as I can top that up.

“There is no social stigma for me; it was more about perception about buses being run down and some anti-social behaviour but I have caught the bus home after a business event and it is always fine, so I was wrong.

“The bus has a lane for part of the journey although it uses the same routes I drive along – I walk from a stop earlier and walk through the city centre which is good for exercise. I mix the car with bus use.”