Never mind the Rhubarb Triangle, South Leeds is surrounded by the Motorway Triangle.
The M62 and the M621 form a triangle that encases Beeston, Cottingley, Belle Isle and Middleton and rips straight through Hunslet and Holbeck. It means we are very well connected (at least for cars) but it has a serious affect on our health in all sorts of ways.
Last February the Area Committee discussed a report which detailed the poor health of our communities. This included concerns over air quality. I ran a stall outside the South Leeds Sports Centre when it held an open day a few years ago. I was only there a few hours, but when I packed up everything on the stall was covered in dust and dirt from being so close to the motorway. The dust was just there in the air, the air that we breathe.
This week it was reported that leaded petrol could be the cause of violent crime. Yes it sounds far fetched and a causal link hasn’t been proved yet, but the statistical data is very persuasive. Wherever lead in petrol is banned, 20 years later violent crime drops dramatically.
If you’re like me you are now trying to think back to when leaded petrol was banned in the UK. I’ve been using unleaded since the 80’s, but when I checked, good old leaded 4-star wasn’t banned until 2000. That means we’ve got another eight years of violent crime to put up with. And with our motorways it must be worse in South Leeds.
By the time the lead is out of the system a new waste incinerator could be up and running in nearby Cross Green. A decision is due in the next month. We are told that emissions (that’s smoke to you and me) from the incinerator will be clean, but then we were told lead in petrol was safe.
Now, statistics has a bad name. “You can prove anything with statistics” they say, or they roll out Churchill’s quote: “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” However, statistics, especially in health, have led to major breakthroughs in fighting disease.
Florence Nightingale is remembered for caring for the common soldier and making hospitals more comfortable. Actually she was just concerned that more soldiers were dying in hospital than on the battlefield. When no one would listen to her, she gathered statistics to prove her point. And she invented the pie chart whilst she was at it.
Dr John Snow discovered that cholera was a water born disease and stopped an outbreak in Soho by closing the Broad Street water pump. He marked where his patients lived on a map and asked where they got their drinking water from. He also noticed that the nearby brewery workers, who drank beer instead of water, were not affected by the disease.
I am afraid I might be boring you. I think all this is fascinating, but then my Godmother was an epidemiologist. Finally on statistics do look at this clip from The Joy Of Stats, a programme on BBC4.
Getting back to the motorways, another problem is noise pollution. A bit more subtle, but if you sit outside on a summer night you don’t sit in silence. You can always hear a low hum of cars on the motorways. It doesn’t matter which direction the wind’s blowing, because we’re surrounded.
I remember a family holiday in Wales. We were staying in a cliff top cottage overlooking Hell’s Mouth Bay on the Llyn peninsular. One evening sitting outside, my other half remarked that she could still hear that incessant buzz of the motorway. I had to point out that what she could actually hear was the sea lapping on the beach below. But that is how ingrained the sound becomes.
As far as I’m concerned, the sooner we say goodbye to the internal combustion engine the better. Cars and lorries are adding to global warming and poisoning the environment, there’s got to be a better way.
If you know me, you’ll know I’m a car driver. “Hypocrite” I hear you shout. Well yes, but I do cycle and walk quite a lot too. Our society is currently built around the car, that’s the real problem that we have all got to break free from.
Join me next week for more views from South of the River.