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Air pollution in London: I’m a London bus driver on the 24 route across central London. I stop my engine at red lights, and yesterday (29.07.11), during my shift from 7am to 3:30pm, I achieved 66 minutes of engine stopped time, despite the handicap not suffered by car drivers of 6+ seconds time delay in restarting the engine. I have to be careful not to switch off at lights which will change back to green within that 6 seconds. Were it not for this handicap (easy enough to remedy), I’d be able to stop the engine for longer. Over its day’s work of some 16 hours, my bus would spend over 3 hours idling at London’s monstrously excessive traffic lights, which of course represents a massive waste of fuel and major source of air pollution. There are between seven and eight thousand London buses.
That 66 minutes of stopped engine time translates into 4+ litres of diesel saved by not letting the engine idle, and 8.4 kilos of CO2 saved which would otherwise have entered the already highly toxic air on London streets. I don’t know the saving in carbon monoxide, nor the nasty nitrous oxides not filtered out by the bus’s Ad-Blue system and selective catalytic reducer, if it was working at all.
If everybody switched off their engine at red lights, the reduction in air pollution would be significant, as would the savings in fuel. It also brings home to drivers just how much time is spent idling at traffic lights. All my passengers notice when the bus suddenly goes quiet, to the extent that I have to reassure them that we have not broken down and explain my reason for switching off, always appreciated by passengers.
Switching off your engine at lights requires extra concentration, and you have to learn the timings. For instance, down Victoria Street in Westminster the lights all have a 60 second intergreen period during the day, except for the Great Smith Street junction which lasts 70 seconds. Each set of lights has a dedicated pedestrian phase when no vehicle movements occur, whether or not pedestrians are crossing (they seldom wait for their green light). However, once you’ve put that extra bit of effort into your regular routes, stopping your engine is quickly incorporated into normal driving practice.
Of course, if government stopped festooning streets with unnecessary traffic lights, life would get better for all concerned. Keep an eye out for those winged pigs . . .