Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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Events highlight air pollution problems along Kirkstall Valley

Words and photos: Ian Sullivan

This year the A65 Sustainable Travel Group, in partnership with the Kirkstall Valley Development Trust, held events to celebrate Clean Air Day and draw attention to the problem of air pollution and the threat of the climate emergency.

Our first event was outside the Kirkstall Retail Park with sign painting for children, a reading area, and a space for people to bring bikes for some maintenance.

Holding an event there was particularly apt as with COVID restrictions easing the junction has returned to what feels like a constant state of congestion as people and shoppers try and cross the valley using their cars.

As a group we want to tackle this issue by campaigning for better cycle lanes, low traffic neighbourhoods, improved bus services and more walkable routes.

This is to allow all people – those with and without cars, young, old and people with mobility issues to be able to get around the local area and enjoy where they live.

This location is also just off the A65, a major route that cuts straight through the heart of the area and leaves many people feeling cut off from where they live.

Basically, the transport system pollutes our valley, isolates many people who live here and contributes towards the climate emergency.

Down at Kirkstall Valley Farm we had a family picnic with a band playing. As well as tackling issues we want to create spaces locally that people can enjoy. Set back from the A65, this community asset gives people the chance to relax in some green space while all around them a community farm gently hums along as volunteers plant vegetables that will be sold locally.

We had a lot of fun on Saturday as a steady stream of residents came along to chat, play with their kids and talk about how we can reimagine our valley and tackle climate change.

There is also a serious side to this as air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths a year in the UK and is recognised by the UK government as one of the biggest environmental health risks we face.

We’d like to thank Leeds Civic Trust for supporting our events. We’d also like to thank Living Streets Leeds, Possible for coming along.

If you’d like to join us in rethinking how we travel around our valley, please get in touch with me at his0ims@leeds.ac.uk.

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