CAZ pushes cars on to roads nearby

Bristol Clean Air Zone is pushing more cars on to nearby roads ‘as expected’, councillors were told.

Drivers of non-compliant vehicles have been increasingly using certain residential roads more often than before the CAZ was introduced.

Despite the traffic displacement, Bristol City Council says air quality in these areas is still improving. That’s because air pollution spreads across the city, rather than staying in one particular location where it’s been emitted from a high number of vehicles.

The Clean Air Zone was introduced in November 2022, and the council has published a detailed report evaluating its effects so far. Councillors on the overview and scrutiny management board discussed the report during a meeting on Thursday, January 18.

Lower Ashley Road in St Pauls and St Johns Lane in Totterdown have seen higher levels of traffic since the scheme was introduced, as drivers use these routes to avoid entering the zone. Lower Ashley Road runs off west from Junction 3 of the M32, while St Johns Lane comes off left at the end of the A37 Wells Road — both just before coming into the zone.

Adam Crowther, head of city transport, said: “The Lower Ashley Road results show what we would expect. I live in that area as well and I’ve seen that there is more traffic using that route to avoid coming into the zone from the M32. That’s what the modelling expected.”

While nitrogen dioxide has fallen on average by almost 10 per cent, higher levels of traffic in certain areas mean it’s less safe to walk or cycle there. Other parts of the city, on the edges of the zone, have also reportedly seen higher levels of traffic, including in Lockleaze.

Green Councillor David Wilcox, representing Lockleaze, said: “I’m noticing a lot more traffic on Glenfrome Road, Eastgate Road and James Street where people are actively avoiding the Clean Air Zone.”

More than half a million fines have been issued to drivers entering the CAZ without paying the fee. But the report said only half had been paid, with many cancelled or written off and many appeals upheld.

So far, the Clean Air Zone has brought in £26 million to the council, through charges and fines, after the cost of running the scheme. This will be spent on subsidised bus routes, fixing potholes, and making it easier and safer to walk and cycle.

The Clean Air Zone was introduced to tackle high levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant caused by petrol and diesel engines. This has reduced massively in some parts of the city, such as near the Bristol Royal Infirmary, but gone up in a few other parts.

But it remains unclear whether the Clean Air Zone has also reduced other pollutants, such as particulate matter known as PM2.5 and PM10. These can harm our heart and lungs and are linked to early death.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service