I PICKED up the Essex County Standard of May 15 and found three pieces of welcome news on travel, all of them plans to get us biking and walking and out of our cars.

This will certainly reduce air pollution and therefore the pollution of our lungs and blood streams.

We will be fitter and happier, the roads quieter, the sky bluer, plus a long list off other advantages.

COVID has accelerated these welcome changes because we are roughly 18 times more likely to catch COVID in an enclosed space than in the open air.

COVID’s tendency to kill patients with pre-existing lung disease and the connection between that and traffic pollution has also made it more urgent to get out of our cars and onto our two feet or our two wheels.

Nowadays, it’s not just the muscle driven bike as we have the choice of electric bikes too.

So what was the Essex County Standard reporting?

First an announcement that the Government has allocated £2bn to promote cycling and walking.

Over what period is uncertain but we know £250m has been released now and applications are invited.

Colchester Cycle Campaign and Walk Colchester are already working with the Local Council.

Meanwhile, the County Council has the opportunity to bid for funding from a £27.4bn fund for road building and maintenance which has set £1bn aside for green transport initiatives and some it says will be piloted in Colchester.

That means there are two different levels of local government and two separate teams bidding for two different pots of money - a considerable complication.

Will bids be integrated properly and submitted in time?

Meanwhile, another local campaigning group, Clean Air Colchester, has launched a petition at:


because the County Council could bid for an electric bus fleet from another government fund to “stop public transport running on fossil fuels”.

Success would mean Colchester would be not just Britain’s Oldest City but also it’s first All Electric Bus Town. City? Town?

It doesn’t matter to me, as long as we bring down our pollution levels which exceed the WHO safety limit on six hot spot roads including the High Street.

Sadly, the following week the ECS reported the County Council Lead for Transport thinks the project would be too expensive. However, as there is funding available surely this is an opportunity we must not miss?

It highlights a difficult issue. You can’t decide something is too expensive unless you know what the cost of not doing it is which is much more difficult to calculate than the cost of doing it.

And which budgets will be hit by the costs?

Diesel fuel is responsible for the pollutant gas nitrous oxide, mistakenly named “laughing gas” and used as entonox in childbirth.

But who is going to laugh when they discover it is a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide?

There are also major health costs from nitrogen dioxide and micro particles which cause lung disease, damage to blood vessels, heart attacks, strokes and possibly earlier dementia.

If you are caught cycling behind a bus belching exhaust fumes escape if you can or hold your breath.

What can we as individuals do about traffic pollution?

We saw what it would be like in the lockdown when the roads were clean and quiet.

Let’s drive as few miles as possible, share rides and cycle or walk whenever we can.

Working from home and holding video meetings will certainly help.

We should get rid of a diesel vehicle if we own one and buy a low or zero emission replacement or simply rent a car - an option worth looking into depending on your needs.

We can lobby councillors and MPs and learn from the websites of local campaign groups and perhaps you may want to join one.

As for public transport, when the COVID risk has passed we should use it for as many journeys as we can.

I am on my bike or walking for several hours most days and it has been a pleasure to see whole families out exercising on footpaths and bikeways.

Many people have no idea how lucky we are to have a fine network of routes in Colchester already - just keep your eyes open and explore.

But the trouble is it is not quite a network because of the busy and dangerous roads one is forced onto at certain key points.

This is why the news about funding is so important.

Please enjoy the green corridors, benefit from the exercise and in winter when it can be more character-forming enjoy the virtuous feeling that you are not burning fossil fuel.