Cleaner air route planner

A tool, mobile application or webform which allows cyclists and walkers in major cities to select routes which have lowest pollution.
Recent reports from a number of sources confirm that poor air quality is harmful to human health and the environment:
“Poor air quality is shortening the life expectancy of people in the UK by an average of seven to eight months and is costing society up to £20 billion per year. It called for an urgent step change in policy to reduce pollution from transport.”
  – House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee
“Adverse health effects from short and long term exposure to air pollution range from premature deaths caused by heart and lung disease to worsening of asthmatic conditions and can lead to reduced quality of life and increased costs of hospital admissions.”
“Air pollution can cause damage to plants and animals, to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, impacting on biodiversity and damaging valued habitats.”
“Air pollution may enhance or reduce the services ecosystems can deliver. For example, deposition of the plant nutrient nitrogen can increase forest and crop production. However, this enrichment of nutrients (eutrophication) can also lead to a reduction in species diversity and therefore the pollination and aesthetic services of some ecosystems.”
   – Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  “The Aphekom study is the first to look at whether pollution triggers long-term complaints, rather than exacerbating symptoms of people who already have an illness. The results showed that 15% of asthma cases among under-17s, 23% of chronic bronchitis cases and 25% of cardiovascular diseases among over-65s could be linked to air pollution generated from living near a busy road. Figures from the EU-supported project also showed that reducing air pollution levels would lead to significant health and monetary benefits.”
  — European Lung Foundation

“Long term exposure to air pollutants is associated with increased mortality, warns a major UK report published this week, which has also defined the most useful measure of air pollution in developing strategies to reduce adverse effects on health.”
– British Medical Journal (BMJ 2009;338:b2532)


In terms of human health, individual exposure to poor air quality can be actively managed by choosing walking and cycling routes that take people away from the most polluted areas (e.g. busy roads with a high number of buses and lorries).


The challenge

In Cambridge, as well as some London boroughs, a number of pollution maps have been generated and overlaid over mapping to help walkers decide on routes. The challenge is to extend this across the UK.

The Cambridge version uses air pollution maps based on the Modelled Annual Mean NO2 Concentrations 2005 dataset which are then overlaid on a map of the roads and paths in the area:

Average levels of NO2 pollution along each road or path segment are calculated through a measure of NO2 exposure by looking at each road or path segment’s average NO2, and its length. A route is then chosen that minimises the overall exposure.


Data Resources(s)

In addition to utilising street mapping data (e.g. from Ordnance Survey), Defra has air pollutant concentration data for all major roads in urban areas, see:

Local authority air quality management area boundaries can also be provided by Defra for the challenge.

Other air quality data available is outlined here (pdf document):

The Department of Transport publishes data regarding traffic flows on major roads.


This challenge is sponsorted by Defra

It’s All Over!
Thanks to everyone who helped make FOSS4G 2013 a success!