Protecting pedestrians from air pollution with bus shelter design - new research begins

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

bus shelter

Researchers at Oxford Brookes University have been awarded funding to improve bus shelter design, to counteract roadside traffic pollution.

The project is part of the University of Birmingham-led TRANSITION Clean Air Network, which is funding five new research projects aimed at improving air quality by reducing harmful transport emissions.

Oxford Brookes University researchers led by Dr Fabrizio Bonatesta, Reader in Thermofluids, will deliver a 6 month project focusing on roadside exposure to peaks of air pollution from passing vehicles. Dr Bonatesta’s team will use state-of-the-art airflow simulation software to optimise bus shelter design to reduce air pollutant exposure. 

Dr Bonatesta commented: “Unknowingly, pedestrians on busy roads, people waiting at bus stops and cyclists may be repeatedly exposed to extremely high, momentary peaks of air pollution from road traffic. These momentary peaks are not routinely measured by road-side monitoring stations; the mechanics of actual exposure and the health effects remain not well understood. 

“The high-definition 3D modelling techniques developed at Oxford Brookes simulate the dispersion of pollutants from moving vehicles, and how this converts into exposure for the public occupying urban spaces. The study will use complex models to investigate the design of bus stop shelters and the protection they offer from exposure to pollutants in typical traffic scenarios.”

The study, awarded £12,500 by the Transition Clean Air Network, will be undertaken in collaboration with Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council. 

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “We know that air pollution is toxic and dangerous to our health. This exciting study will not only help us to learn more about air pollution generally in Oxford, but will also allow us to find out to what extent poor street furniture design can impact air pollution dispersion and aggravate people’s exposure to air pollution. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this research project.”

Councillor Tim Bearder, Cabinet Member for Highway Management, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Addressing the toxic effects of air pollution is a top priority for the new administration at Oxfordshire County Council. This study should bring further means to help protect the public from air pollution alongside the bold and far reaching additional actions we are taking as a council to cut emissions including the upcoming Oxford Zero Emission Zone and an upgraded active travel infrastructure.”

TRANSITION is one of six Clean Air Networks funded by UK Research & Innovation. The five innovative clean air research projects that have been funded are aimed at helping to shape the UK’s low-emission mobility revolution, to deliver clean air solutions and help meet the government’s ‘net zero’ targets by 2050.

In April,the UK government announced it has set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

Dr Suzanne Bartington, TRANSITION Lead Investigator and Public Health Clinician and Environmental Epidemiologist at the University of Birmingham, said: “We are delighted to fund these innovative projects spanning UK road, rail and bus transport. The outputs will advance our knowledge, understanding and tools to reduce health harms of transport emissions.”

Photo by Sandy Ravaloniaina on Unsplash