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Press Release: Campaign Against the Birmingham CAZ

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) today launched its ABCAZ (Against Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone) campaign as a result of Birmingham City Council’s controversial and unpopular plan to impose a daily charge on non-compliant vehicles using roads inside the A4540 Middleway Ring Road from 1st January 2020.

Vehicles that fail to meet minimum emissions standards will be charged £8 per day if they are a car, taxi private hire vehicle or van. HGVs, coaches and buses will pay a daily charge of £50.

ABD Environment spokesman Paul Biggs, who lives in the West Midlands, said:

“The daily charges are unlikely to have a significant positive impact on air quality, but they could have a devastating financial effect on individuals and businesses that cannot afford to buy newer compliant vehicles. UK Air quality has improved significantly since 1970 with Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and Particulate (PM2.5) emissions down 70% and 78% respectively.

I urge Birmingham City Council to end its policy of deliberate congestion-causing measures, which increase emissions and create air pollution hot-spots.”

The Birmingham CAZ charge fails any reasonable cost-benefit analysis: The purely theoretical health and environmental benefits are £38 million over 10 years, at an overall negative cost of £122 million. Birmingham are also seeking an additional £69 million from the government to support the CAZ plans. Given the potential damage to the local economy, plus the fact that only 11.5% of people who responded to the CAZ consultation supported the plan, the ABD is calling for the CAZ to be scrapped.

Ends

Notes for Editors:

ABCAZ Website: www.abcaz.org.uk

ABD Contact Page:  http://www.abd.org.uk/xabout/contact/

ABD Report: Air Quality and Vehicles – The Truth: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf

Air Pollution – A Crisis Created by Politicians?

The following article is by Paul Biggs, ABD Director and Environment Spokesperson. It first appeared in Local Transport Today, the magazine for local road traffic engineers.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”  H L Mencken

Imaginary might be a little harsh, but exaggerated certainly isn’t. The latest hobgoblin is the air quality ‘crisis’, which is being used to justify more taxes on some drivers in the guise of clean air zones (CAZ) such as the ULEZ scheme in London. If the much-delayed carbon dioxide hobgoblin doesn’t get us, which we were previously using diesel to help slay, then NOx and particulates (dust) certainly will, according to the likes of London mayor Sadiq Kahn.

In fact, London is where the hobgoblin meets the ‘zombie’ statistic in the form of the mayor’s false 40,000 air pollution deaths claim, which has been shot down by the likes of respiratory physiologist Professor Tony Frew, a former member of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) (http://tinyurl.com/y7coye43 ). This Frankenstein’s monster of statistical constructs doesn’t refer to real people, but is derived from the estimated 340,000 life years lost by everyone in the UK as a result of an average ‘early death’ of around three days due to air pollution, all things being equal, which in reality they are not.

In fact, there are a number of factors that can influence life expectancy in positive or negative ways. These include the likes of genetics, wealth, lifestyle, diet, environment, medical advances, etc. It’s clear from the increased life expectancy from birth that we enjoy as a developed nation driven by carbon fuels that the balance of all factors is strongly positive in favour of increased longevity.

Professor Frew also points out that just because pollution levels have been made illegal doesn’t mean that they are dangerous. There’s a lack of publicity for the latest report from COMEAP where experts can’t agree on any link between NOx and mortality, and the latest Office for National Statistics data shows that the North-South divide for life expectancy is clearly wealth-related rather than related to air quality.

Dates of birth and death are ‘hard’ data compared to junk epidemiological guesswork. Making people richer, rather than poorer with unjustified taxes, is the best way to make their lives longer and happier.

As for asthma, it was identified by the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and China BC – Before Cars. There are many potential attack triggers for people who are genetically predisposed to asthma and it’s a well-known fact that indoor air quality, where we spend 90 per cent of our time, can be many times worse than outdoors. Also, individuals with compromised respiratory systems are susceptible to spikes in poor air quality due to very specific combinations of weather conditions.

To mayor Khan’s credit, he has recognised the stupidity of wood-burning stoves, which can emit 18 times as much pollution as a modern diesel car and six times as much as a diesel truck. But there is no sign yet of any wood tax or recognition of the impact of the ‘prettiest pollutant’ known as fireworks. It’s ironic that London bus shelters carry posters side-by-side advertising the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) and firework displays. If there really was an air pollution emergency or crisis, wood-burning stoves and fireworks would be top of the banned list.

Regressive taxes, which is what CAZ charges are, target the less well-off who can’t afford new or newer vehicles. CAZ policies also fail to pass any cost-benefit analysis. Close to home for me personally, but not affecting my Euro 6 car, the planned Birmingham CAZ is projected to provide purely theoretical health and environmental benefits of £38m over ten years against a negative overall cost of £122m. This makes Birmingham’s EU-threatened fine of £60m for failing to tackle levels of air pollution declared illegal (by an EU we were supposed to be leaving) look like a bargain. Additionally, areas outside the Birmingham CAZ are likely to lose thousands of free parking spaces and the 6,000 free parking spaces within the zone could also face charges or restrictions.

UK vehicle emissions have declined significantly over the past 40 years against a background of increased vehicle usage. The fact that urban pollution ‘hot spots’ remain can to a large extent be blamed on deliberate congestion-causing policies, which have been designed to obstruct and slow traffic.

Banning all transport in London, for example, would only reduce particulate levels from the current average 14 micrograms per cubic metre to 12, the worldwide background level being 7 micrograms per cubic metre.

The potential air quality benefits of a ULEZ or CAZ will therefore be insignificant. We should instead be pleased with the significant improvements in air quality that have been achieved thanks to advances in vehicle technology and look forward to continued improvement from reduced vehicle emissions driven by technology.

Our tax- and restrictions-obsessed politicians should recognise the longer, happier lives that people in the UK are enjoying largely due to the economic benefits of carbon fuels. But we won’t be holding our breath waiting for that to happen!

Paul Biggs is environment spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers. He is a biological sciences graduate and retired cancer researcher.

Press Release: Police Must Justify New Speed Campaign With Hard Statistics Not Spin, Smoke and Mirrors

As UK police launch the latest nationwide speed enforcement blitz commencing 14 Jan (1), the ABD challenges the National Police Chiefs’ Council spin and deliberate confusion of statistics, used to justify the thousands of tickets that will mainly be issued to sober, licenced drivers exceeding limits by small margins.

ABD spokesman Paul Biggs explains:  “The National Police Chief’s Council claim that ‘Across Europe speeding contributes to as many as one third of all collisions that result in fatality’.  The police chiefs are deliberately misleading by ignoring two facts.  Firstly, the one third includes inappropriate speed within limits – 85% of fatal and 93% of serious RTAs involve road users travelling at or below the speed limit – but enforcement of limits doesn’t tackle this.  Secondly, statistics uncovered by the ABD show clearly that the remainder of the one third is made up largely of those who were also drunk, drugged, driving stolen cars, using cars for crime, driving without licences or travelling at reckless speeds way above the limit (2).  Indeed, whilst we have asked many times just how many people are killed by sober, otherwise legal drivers exceeding the limit by small margins, those in authority have invariably dodged the question.  Yet these drivers remain the prime target by far of campaigns such as this.  Perhaps Adrian Davis of West Mercia Police, who justifies the campaign on the grounds of 123 people killed and 929 seriously injured in his area, may enlighten us as to how many of these involved such drivers?  We won’t hold our breath.”

It should be noted that Paul Garvin, then Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, verified the above in 1993 (4.) stating:  “having looked at the accident statistics in this area, we find that if you break down the 1,900 collisions we have each year only three per cent involve cars that are exceeding the speed limit. Just 60 accidents per year involve vehicles exceeding the speed limit.  You then need to look at causes of these 60 accidents. Speed may be a factor in the background but the actual cause of the accident invariably is drink-driving or drug-driving.”

The ABD call for limits to be set using the 85th percentile methods to avoid the incentives for targeting high revenue areas.(3)  Speed limits are too often set on the whims and fancies of local councillors, clearly exceeding such limits, set with no basis in science does not automatically make drivers unsafe but it makes them prime targets for over-zealous enforcers.

1.  https://www.roadsafetysupport.co.uk/news/uk-police-join-forces-national-speed-campaign

2.  http://www.abd.org.uk/the-hidden-truth-behind-statistics-used-to-justify-speed-enforcement-priorities/

3.  http://www.abd.org.uk/setting-speed-limits/

4.  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1448704/Speed-cameras-dont-save-lives.html

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Press Release: The ABD asks NHS Quango if they are NICE or NISE?

Has taxpayer funded NHS QUANGO The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) exceeded its remit to become The National Institute for Social Engineering (NISE)?

NICE have issued draft guidelines aimed at prioritising cycling, walking and public transport for new roads as part of a consultation about encouraging physical activity (1), (2). There’s nothing new in much of what is being proposed. Indeed, it repeats the ‘Ivory Tower’ thinking we’ve come to expect from academics who are often socially and financially insulated from reality.

Transport isn’t an Olympic sport – it’s about moving goods and people around the UK for vital socioeconomic reasons by modes that are practical or fit for purpose. Cycling can never be as safe as being a driver or passenger in a 5-star safety rated car. Drivers don’t tend to fall off their cars, but the 2014 NHS Cycling Safety Special Report showed that 248 Cyclists were Killed or Injured in 2012 with no other vehicles involved (3). And how does encouraging people to take public transport, a sedentary mode of transport, help exactly?

ABD Spokesman Paul Biggs said: “Hindering economically vital road transport in the vain hope that some people might want to walk or cycle more is a fools recipe in an age when the provision of local amenities isn’t keeping pace with housing development. Any improvements to the likes of cycling infrastructure shouldn’t be at the expense of road transport. If NICE wants to do more to help the improve people’s health encouraging them to take fewer flights might assist, and we suggest they curtail the £189,000 of taxpayer’s money that they have spent on air travel since 2015 via 863 flights” (4).

NICE have apparently turned into an organisation that feels capable of commenting on all kinds of matters outside its sphere of expertise. We suggest they stick to their own knitting.

ENDS

Notes for Editors

(1) NICE: New roads should prioritise cyclists and pedestrians

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46755140

(2) NICE Consultation: Physical activity: encouraging activity in the general population

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-qs10073/consultation/html-content-2

(3) NHS News analysis: Cycling safety special report

https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/news-analysis-cycling-safety-special-report/#has-cycling-become-more-dangerous

(4) Taxpayers’ Alliance Report: NHS Quango Flights

https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/nhs_flights

 

Press Release: ‘Vision Zero’ is a Counter-Productive Road Safety Fantasy says the ABD

The Alliance of British Drivers proposes a more realistic approach to reducing road casualties (1)

The Vision Zero concept has been adopted in several countries purportedly as a means to improving road safety. However, it is obvious that zero road casualties is an impossibility. Even if vehicles could be prevented from colliding, or could collide without causing injury, the likes of cyclists, for example, will still injure or kill themselves by falling off their bikes. Nothing good ever comes from policies based on unrealistic targets.

Vision Zero is simply an attempt to further reduce speed limits to levels that are economically and socially ruinous. Nothing seems to have been learned from the failure of 20mph limits to reduce casualties (2) or the continued flat-lining of casualty reduction due to the speed camera one-trick road safety ‘pony.’  Recent data from the DfT showing the contribution of slow drivers to casualties (3) reinforces the fact that the ’85th percentile’ is the safest speed (4,5,6,7,8) and speed limits should be set accordingly.

With regard to ‘safe road use’ within the safe system approach, the ABD believes that all road users have a responsibility to ensure that their actions do not put themselves or others at risk.  Cooperation and courtesy between road users should be encouraged. Unfortunately, the transport policies adopted by many local authorities in recent years have alienated road users from one another.  The road safety ‘establishment’ also largely dismisses the contribution that advanced driver training can have to improving safety, despite the fact that many insurance companies give discounts to drivers who have undergone such training.

The ABD recommends, therefore, that transport policies should be reviewed, especially where road space has been reallocated disproportionately to non-motorised road users for ideological reasons; that the contribution drivers make to the economy should be recognised; that drivers should be encouraged to take advanced training; and that road safety education, including that of future drivers, should be compulsory in all schools.

ENDS

Notes

(1) An Effective Approach to the Attainment of Vision Zero: Vision-Zero

(2) 20mph speed limit study: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/20-mph-speed-limits-on-roads

(3) Slow drivers: https://metro.co.uk/2018/12/29/crashes-caused-drivers-going-slow-soar-third-8290610/

(4) Department of Transport, Annex E to Circular Roads 1/80, The effect of altering levels of speed limits: summary of experience. 1980.

(5) Lave, Charles A, “Speeding, Coordination and the 55mph Limit,”  The American Economic Review, Vol 75, No 5 (Dec, 1985) pp 1159-1164.

(6) Solomon, David, “Accidents on Main Rural Highways Related to Speed, Driver and Vehicle,” Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, July 1964.

(7) Hauer, Ezra, “Accidents, Overtaking and Speed Control,” Accident Analysis and Prevention, January 1971, 3, 1-12.

(8)  Penn State News, “Crashes increase when speed limits dip far below engineering recommendation”. December 2018. https://news.psu.edu/story/551574/2018/12/12/research/crashes-increase-when-speed-limits-dip-far-below-engineering#.XBKrP4MYP-s.facebook

Stop Repeating The 40,000 Air Pollution Deaths Lie Says the ABD

Journalists and Politicians continue to mislead the public with discredited statistical constructs according to the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD)

In their 2008 Report, the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) estimated that every person in the UK loses an average of 3 days from their life expectancy due to air pollution (NOx and Particulates). This doesn’t sound very scary given the fact that average life expectancy in the UK has risen by years rather than days due to a number of factors including the wealth created by a fossil fuel driven economy. So, COMEAP added up the 3 days for everyone to arrive at a total figure of 340,000 life years lost. Then, using a quite complex equation, they constructed a statistic of ‘40,000 equivalent lives lost’ per year with the expectation that it would be misinterpreted and misused. In a radio interview, Respiratory Physiologist and former member of COMEAP, Professor Tony Frew described the 40,000 deaths as a ‘Zombie’ statistic that refuses to die (1).

ABD Environment Spokesman Paul Biggs, who is a Biological Sciences graduate and retired cancer researcher said: “Be clear, the claimed 40,000 deaths per year doesn’t refer to real people or real deaths. There are a number of factors that influence life expectancy in positive and negative ways including genetics, lifestyle, wealth, environment, medical advances etc., but the balance of all factors is strongly positive in favour of increased life expectancy. If there was an early deaths crisis in the UK, the government wouldn’t need to raise the retirement age, would they? The North-South divide for life expectancy in the UK evident in ONS data is clearly related to wealth rather than air pollution. Let’s end the ‘pollution scare’ that blights journalists and politicians”

The ABD demands that this irrational attack on the alleged air pollution from vehicles should cease.

Notes for Editors

(1) Prof Tony Frew interview: https://talkradio.co.uk/news/sadiq-khans-40000-pollution-deaths-year-zombie-statistic-and-isnt-true-says-respiratory

Life Expectancy Data Says There Is No Air Pollution Health Crisis

There have been many scare stories published about how air pollution in London and other major cities is shortening lives. London Mayor Sadiq Khan certainly believes there is a major public health crisis that he needs to tackle by aggressive measures against vehicle owners. But data published by the Office of National Statistics simply contradicts these claims.

If such claims were true, one would expect to see shorter life spans for people living in those parts of the country where air pollution was known to be bad. For example some of the central London boroughs such as Camden, Westminster and Kensington & Fulham. But in fact the opposite is true. Residents of those boroughs have longer life expectancies than most of the rest of London, or the rest of the country. The Daily Mail has published an article that covers this subject in depth and even suggests that rather than retiring to the country, you can live longer if you move to central London – see link below.

Women born in the London Borough of Camden have the highest life expectancy overall at 86.5 years, with Kensington & Chelsea at 86.2 years. That’s longer than women who live in the outer London borough of Bromley at 85.3 years. Males live somewhat shorter lives but there is a similar advantage to living in the more polluted boroughs.

London as a whole has a life expectancy of 84.3 years for women and 80.5 years for men and expectancy has been rising until very recently – see ONS statistics link below. That compares with 84.0 years and 80.6 years for the wider south-east of the country. Both London and the wider south-east are much better than all other UK regions apart from the south-west. For example, in the north-east the figures are only 81.6 years for women and 77.9 years for men, perhaps negatively affected by working in former heavy industries in that region.

The Daily Mail article contains a useful interactive map so you can see what the figures are for where you live.

Now there are clearly other influences at work on life expectancy such as the quality of local healthcare and the wealth of the local population (wealthier people are known to live longer) but this data demonstrates that air pollution has no measurable impact on life expectancy at current levels even in the most polluted London boroughs. If it did one would expect to see this revealed in the data recently published by the ONS.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is more about raising taxes on long-suffering vehicle owners than improving the life expectancy of the population.

Daily Mail article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6487389/Women-Camden-longest-lives-UK.html

Office of National Statistics Life Expectancy Data: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/datasets/lifeexpectancyatbirthandatage65bylocalareasuk

 

Press Release: UK Drivers Sleepwalking Into Macron Style Taxes On ‘Eco’ Hatchbacks

The ABD reveals that modest three years old ‘eco branded’ family hatchbacks will soon be effectively banned from inside the London North and South Circular roads. That approach will likely be copied in cities and towns across the UK:

Owners of many just over three years old top selling diesel hatchbacks branded ‘eco’ or ‘blue’ will soon wake up to a shock as huge charges will effectively ban cars from towns and cities including some 2015 registered ‘Eco’ or ‘Blue’ branded Fiestas, Focus, Golfs, Corsas, Astras etc (see list below). When these charges are imposed owners will see their cars plummet in value.

ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries comments: “Many people think that as they don’t drive in London, or that they drive newish ‘eco’ cars, this won’t affect them.  They are wrong. The UK Government have given powers to local authorities to introduce emissions-based charges pretty much at their whim and with no justification.

Councils all over the UK are looking to copy Sadiq Khan’s lead, Manchester being well advanced in its plan.  Values of the many affected cars, and even some that are not currently affected, will fall due to fear of future charges long before they even happen. If the government wish to avoid ‘Yellow Vest’ style protests they need to act now, remove such powers from local authorities and ban all such schemes.”

The ABD searched the London ULEZ site (applying within the congestion charge zone from 2019 and spreading beyond from 2021) using genuine registration numbers of a number of modern family hatchbacks taken from online car sales websites.

Check your car here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/vrm-checker-ulez

Here are just some of the cars falling foul of ULEZ charges:

2015 Citroen C3 Edition 1.6 Bluehdi 100 Edition 5dr 90bhp
2015 Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi Airdream VTR+ Hatchback 5dr Diesel 115bhp
2015 Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic Style 5dr  94bhp
2015 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec 5dr  113bhp
2015 Fiat Panda 1.2 MULTIJET POP 5d 75 BHP
2015 Fiat 500 Lounge1.3  Multijet 3dr 95bhp
2015 Nissan Juke 1.5 ACENTA DCi 5 DOOR 110 BHP
2015 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi ECO Expression + 5dr 90bhp
2015 Toyota Auris 1.4 D-4D Excel (s/s) 5dr 90bhp
2015 Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi Ecoflex Design 94BHP
2015 Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex Elite 163 bhp
2015 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 16V Ecoflex Design 5dr 108bhp
2014 VW Golf 1.6tdi estate 89 bhp and 108 bhp
2015 VW Golf hatch 1.6tdi Bluemotion tech S 104bhp
2015 VW Golf Bluemotion 1.6tdi estate 108bhp

 

 

Press Release: Are 20 MPH Speed Limit Campaigners Killing People?

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently published the most authoritative study to date on the impact of wide-area signed-only 20 mph speed limits. It showed that there is no road safety benefit whatsoever from such schemes. In addition they have negligible impact on modal shift or on traffic speeds.

This is the long-awaited evidence that enormous amounts of money are being wasted on implementing 20 mph schemes which could have been spent instead on more effective road safety measures. In London alone, it is estimated that tens of millions of pounds have been spent on 20-mph signed-only schemes to no effect and nationwide it must run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

This disappointing result is very similar to the result of a study of driver education courses now being used by the police to generate funds. Both that and 20 mph schemes have been advocated by those who know little about road safety and have not studied the evidence. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has long called for “evidence-based” road safety policies. The latest evidence should not be ignored.

One organisation that has been promoting 20-mph speed limits as the solution to road safety problems is “20s Plenty for Us” – see http://www.20splenty.org/ .

Their reaction to the report is to criticise the statistical analysis and the areas studied (both of which are unjustified) and suggest all that is needed is more enforcement. The fact that even active enforcement (e.g. in the City of London where hundreds of drivers have been fined for exceeding 20 mph with no impact on casualties) only reduces traffic speed by insignificant amounts is ignored.

The DfT report can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/20-mph-speed-limits-on-roads . Key paragraphs from the report are:

“The evidence available to date shows no significant change in the short term in collisions and casualties, in the majority of the case studies (including the aggregated set of residential case studies).”

“Journey speed analysis shows that the median speed has fallen by 0.7mph in residential areas and 0.9mph in city centre areas.”

What has been happening is that the anti-car activists encouraged by 20s Plenty are now wasting millions of pounds nationwide when that money would have been better spent on other road safety measures – such as road engineering and education of younger drivers.

Note: the ABD is not opposed to the use of 20-mph speed limits where it might be of benefit or where compliance will be high but it is not the solution to all road safety problems and simply sticking up signs is a waste of money. The simplistic solutions proposed by 20s Plenty and others cannot and does not work to reduce the Killed and Seriously Injured on our roads to any major extent.

ABD Press Release: The UK Government Should Follow French Lead and Ban Local Congestion Charges

The French government have swiftly reacted to recent riots and scrapped plans to introduce urban tolls or congestion charges as we know them (1).  It is not in the British driver’s nature to protest and riot but the ABD urges the UK government to follow the French lead and scrap the rights given to local authorities to intruduce local tolls and parking fees ad hoc with no regulation whatsoever.

ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries comments:    Councils all over Britain are looking at plans to punish and fine those they perceive as ‘polluters’ with no scientific evidence of a problem (2).  These are often set to trap even recent ‘economy cars’.  This will be a disastrous effect of ‘localism’ and is totally unjustified.  The London ULEZ is already an example of this.  It must be stamped out now or the British habit of rolling over and accepting all could change come election time. 

1.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-environment/france-drops-plan-for-urban-tolls-amid-fuel-price-protests-idUSKCN1NV1PZ

2.  http://www.abd.org.uk/air-quality-and-vehicles-the-truth/