Sustainable Commutes: University of Leeds Travel Survey Results

As part of our ongoing blog series for National Clean Air Day, Sustainability Project Officer Claire Booth discusses the University of Leeds Travel Survey results. You can read our previous blog entries here and here.

Every year, the University of Leeds undertakes a Travel Survey to provide a snapshot of how staff and students travel to campus. The results feed into our Sustainable Travel Plan, which helps us to achieve our aim to foster a student and staff body where sustainable travel is the norm, while reducing the associated negative impacts of travel such as congestion, carbon emissions and air pollution.  The results can also help us to assess the availability of workplace facilities, such as showers and cycle parking, and inform us of opportunities to make improvements and to better promote sustainable travel options.

Sustainable travel includes walking, cycling, car sharing or public transport. From the Travel Survey results conducted earlier this year, we discovered that over 75% of staff and an impressive 95% of students travel to the University in a sustainable way. That’s a really great result.


While over seventy percent of students walked or ran to the University as their main mode of transport (the main mode is the one they travel furthest by), only seventeen percent of staff commuted in the same way.  Between 5 and 10 percent responded that they cycled to work and a quarter of staff said that they drive into work.

The modes of travel that we choose to travel to and from the University have a direct impact on local air quality. Opting for a low or zero emission mode such as walking or cycling – or using mass transport such as bus, train or car sharing – reduces both the individual and collective impact of air pollution, and plays a part in improving air quality levels in the city.

Air pollution comes from a range of sources including transport. The main contributing pollutants from vehicle emissions are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons and lead. Each pollutant behaves differently and has varied effects on our health, which makes air quality is a complex issue to manage and control.


But we want to keep making improvements.  This is why we are offering a free breakfast for National Clean Air Day for all staff and students who travel sustainably.  Join us tomorrow outside the Student Union from 8.30am onwards and make your pledge this National Clean Air Day.

Tweet us your pledge @Uol_Sus.

For more information on the Leeds Living Lab for Air Quality, which is driving projects that limit exposure to poor air quality, visit:




Four Reasons to Leave the Car at Home


It’s time to keep the car in the garage.  It may seem convenient but what are the real consequences of taking your car to work?  Does your commute have a real impact on the air around the city? And are there any real benefits from taking public transportation? Here are 4 benefits of swapping the car for a train.

1: There’s Less Air Pollution

Being in such close contact with stop starting cars is a fast track way to take in air pollution, being in close contact with exhaust fumes, even inside a car risk those fumes entering your body. And not just through breathing.  Most Air Pollution can enter your body through your skin. The particles are that small.

Those who take public transport are less exposed to air pollution than those who take personal transport to work every day. This is in part due to the stop-starting cars from traffic in and around the city.  Choosing sustainable modes of transportation not only allows for cleaner air for the city but also for your lungs.

2: It’s Cost Effective

If you’re commuting from a distance it may be time to think about commuting by train to the city centre.  Not only will you save money by using less fuel, but you will also allow your car to have a longer life.  The more you use your car the more maintenance it requires.  This includes tyre replacement, oil refill, windscreen wash and these just the basics.  If you’re unlucky you could create serious wear on your car and need some severe maintenance work that could go into the hundreds.

By choosing public transportation it not only allows you to have spare cash at hand but also takes away the stress of daily car maintenance.   The worry of whether you have fuel in the car will be gone.  The only thing you’ll need to think about is what book you’ll be reading that day.

3: It Gives you Personal Time

If you have a long work day then it’s made even worse my commuting into the city centre through motorways and nonstop congestion. And being behind a wheel requires constant focus, attention and care.

Use that time on your commute instead to unwind, close your eyes and reflect on the day ahead or the day gone by. There’s an opportunity within that commute to shorten your work day by letting your brain unwind by switching off and recharging.  It not only improves overall wellbeing but gives you time to be in the moment and not worry about the world around you.

4: It’s Leisure Time

There may have been time when you can listen to the radio or listen to a podcast but not only is it sometimes difficult to hear what is said over the noise of the outside traffic but you will also find that you’re never truly focussed on what’s being said if your eyes are on the road.  Let alone how unsafe it is to have your attention elsewhere while driving.

You may be on your way to work but it doesn’t mean you need to be working.  That precious commute time you can have by leaving your car at home can be spent catching up on your favourite book, learning something new, or reading up on the daily news and events.




From Alberta to Leeds: A Clean Air Interview with Exchange Student Nick Tabler

What’s your background? What brings you to the University of Leeds?

I’m Nick Tabler I’m a student from the University of Alberta in Western Canada I’m here on a QES Scholarship working with Leeds Living Labs doing software development, centre calibration and designing air quality monitoring solutions.

My background is in Electrical Engineering.  I haven’t had much climate science background coming into this so for the first month I’ve been learning a lot from my colleagues of Earth and Environment.  I’ve always had an interest in hiking, mountaineering, being outside and the quality of ecosystems.

I’ve been working within the Sustainability environment industry and I’ve wanted to get a more academic experience so I’ve moved into the research side of things. As far as air quality goes it’s a much larger concern in England and it’s something that’s difficult to manage and difficult to quantify.

What are you working on at the University of Leeds?

I’m designing a couple of air quality monitoring systems that will go around campus.  These are black box solutions that we will be putting nearby the motorways and around campus as well as a forest reserve south of Leeds. I’m working between that as well as air quality monitoring walks, managing volunteers. Collecting data and transferring it to our website as well as enhancing our website so people can see what air quality is like around campus.

We have a consistent walk engaging volunteers around campus, various staff groups, and student groups as well as trying to engage students who can find the data to see what the air quality is like over time. These Air quality walks are an initiative by the Leeds Living Lab Project to monitor air quality throughout 12 months starting from November/December and then moving up to November/December 2018.  It provides a data set that we can give to planning and operations to help engage their air quality strategy.

How would you compare the Leeds and Alberta?

Compared to Alberta I find Leeds is a lot more condensed. You get a lot of different air quality concerns that you wouldn’t get back in Alberta. I would say the density is much higher so you get a lot more traffic and a lot more slow traffic on motorways.  So that can result in a lot more diesel cars, I find that it’s a lot smoggy here. So it’s more noticeable. On some days it’s difficult to quantify on just a sensory basis. It’s something that has to be more experienced through sensors and monitors. It seems more people are concerned about Air Quality here than Alberta.

I think there’s something to be learned from Leeds to take back to Alberta. From what I’ve seen working with Sustainability on campus. There are a lot more initiatives here as far as biodiversity as well as data monitoring through the city. I think that’s something I’ll be taking back to Alberta.  Valuing biodiversity and monitoring on campus to the best of my knowledge I don’t see as many projects or outreaches are not quite there.  And that is well something that I find in Leeds. Think there’s a lot of different concerns that make it difficult for me to say one thing or another to compare both Alberta and Leeds, as far as land preservation, it’s a different specialality. It’s more condensed, less area here than there is in Canada so there are different solutions that have to be considered.

It’s National Clean Air Day on the 21st June. What’s your Clean Air Day pledge?

For National Clean Air Day 2018 I’m trying to rely on walking and cycling rather than using public transportation. Because public transport is substantially better than driving a single car but cycling would still be better!