Clean Air: tackling air pollution in Sheffield

In April this year, air pollution in Sheffield was more than double the legal limit. Researchers from our Urban Flows Observatory, along with a group of volunteers, have installed more than 250 air pollution monitors in the city. The premise of the project is that real-time data generated by the monitors is accessible to the public to encourage us to change our habits, particularly around driving.


BBC Look North aired a report on the project on 15th July. (Copyright BBC)

Rohit Chakraborty from Urban Flows, is involved in the project and commented: “Air pollution is not visible, and so our sole aim is to make it visible. That is why we have started deploying monitors and therefore we are putting the data into the hands of the people.”

Sheffield Council has started a consultation on proposals for a clean air zone, which would mean operators of the most polluting busses, lorries and taxis being charged for entering the city centre. You can find more information about their consultation here
Councillor Bob Johnson says, “19% of the vehicles, including the buses and taxis, are responsible for 50% of the pollution. It makes sense to address the problem on the dirtiest vehicles that we have on our roads.”

The Council estimates that in Sheffield, around 500 people die every year because of air pollution.

The plan is that electric and hybrid vehicles will not be charged. The electric and hybrid vehicles used in the university projects have pollution sensors on board.

Steve Jubb, Chief Technical Officer at the Urban Flows Observatory, explained that the University electric and hybrid vehicles contain gas analysers and particulate monitors. When asked how people can improve air quality Steve said: “Don’t use cars if you don’t need to, and if you are doing school runs don’t idle your engine.”

The Sheffield Urban Flows Observatory seeks to understand how the physical metabolism of a city (its energy and material resources) can be effectively measured, understood and utilised. It is an EPSRC-funded collaboration between the Departments of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and Civil and Structural Engineering. The aim of the initiative is to develop a robust evidence base to facilitate local and national decision making, supporting the creation of zero carbon, healthy, happy cities. For more information, visit the Urban Flows Website