Urban traffic pollution - a big data approach

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences


General project description (<400 words)
Urban traffic is the predominant source of air pollution in urban areas. In particular, traffic emits particulate matter and nitrogen oxides both of which have major impacts upon public health. Worldwide, urbanisation is increasing with corresponding increases in traffic related infrastructure. Hence there is a clear need to better understand urban vehicle pollution.

This project will combine atmospheric science and environmental health academics from the University of Birmingham with big data company The Floow Limited. The Floow Limited is a telematics company which specializes in the analytics of vehicle driving behaviour. The company actively collects and has a huge repository of past anonymised mobility trace information, including vehicle location, speed and acceleration. The PhD student will be based predominantly at the University but will also spend significant amounts of time at the offices of The Floow and will be embedded in their R&D team. The student will play an active and exciting role helping to take this new partnership to the next level.

To best understand and control urban pollution a high resolution understanding is required to manage urban environments in which people live and move. The combination of telematics data with the air pollution and meteorology data, routinely collected in Birmingham, will generate a unique data set with which to understand vehicle pollution and how driving conditions and driver characteristics affect it. The project will evaluate how the combination of meteorological conditions, driving characteristics and road infrastructure effect ambient air pollution concentrations. The air pollution data will be obtained from previous field campaigns, the Birmingham based data from the DEFRA run Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) of air pollution monitors. New data will also be generated using targeted field campaigns using the University of Birmingham mobile atmospheric pollution laboratory. Meteorological data will be provided by the emerging crowdsourced / VGI datafeeds grounded by standard observations from the Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory (BUCL) which is led by Co-I Lee Chapman.

In particular the project will evaluate how traffic calming measures, effective use of traffic lights and other vehicle based infrastructure affects air pollution levels. We will liaise closely with Birmingham City Council about the project with whom we have a long standing relationship through past and ongoing projects. The project will provide policy relevant outcomes for reducing urban air pollution.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/M009009/1 04/10/2015 31/12/2022
2072322 Studentship NE/M009009/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2020 James Robert Hodgson
Description Determined that local meteorology and air quality can have small but noticeable and statistically significant impacts on recreational and elite runners at both parkrun events and 5000m track meets.

Modelled air quality data is being used to provide improved 'at event' resolution data for air quality variables to be further analysed against parkrun finishing times.

It is hoped that this will allow for determination of pollution exposure reduction by attending parkrun events and what overall impact meteorology and air quality can have on athletic performance and health.

Further research is being performed to examine similar impacts on half marathon runners to see if extended physical activity in variable meteorological and air quality conditions has an influence on health.

Strava data (mapping software for runners and cyclists training and commutes) is also available to analyse pollution exposure of commuters.

Examined the influence of meteorology and air quality on elite and recreational runners at half marathon events to determine the extent to which various sub-groups are effected by changing environmental parameters. Elite women and the slowest recreational runners appear to be most effected by increased temperatures and ozone pollution.
Exploitation Route Field studies of local air quality and meteorology at parkrun and elite races and the impact of those variables on performance, health and exposure - Academia

Implementation of favourable road use surrounding green space/green space structure to reduce pollution within parks and similar areas to lower exposure within them - Academia/local action groups/councils

Implementation of accessible cycle/commuting paths that have lower pollution exposure - Academia and local councils
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

Description STRAVA Metro 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department Urban Big Data Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Future data analysis, paper write up and journal submission processes.
Collaborator Contribution Strava Metro data provision and expertise/knowledge on said data.
Impact Provision of Strava Metro that is planned to be analysed in conjunction with local air quality and meteorology data as well as traffic data to determine commuters exposure to air quality and potential alternative cycling commute networks/routes.
Start Year 2018
Description parkrun-Kings College London 
Organisation King's College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Data analysis, paper write up, paper submission to journals.
Collaborator Contribution Provision and expertise on modelled air quality data for the Greater London area.
Impact Analysis of modelled air quality data in relation to parkrun results in Greater London - building on work previously done regarding air quality and meteorology influencing athletics performance. Upon completion this shall be submitted to relevant journals for peer review.
Start Year 2019
Description parkrun-Sheffield Hallam 
Organisation Sheffield Hallam University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Data analysis, paper write up and journal submissions.
Collaborator Contribution Data provision of parkrun finishing times/locations and expertise on said data.
Impact Project to analyse the influence of local air quality and meteorology on parkrun athletic performance at London events. This has led to a paper being written and currently submitted for peer review.
Start Year 2017
Description BBC Documentary - Fighting For Air 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Worked as part of the University of Birmingham team liaising with BBC film crew and local council authorities in monitoring and analysing air quality in Kings Heath before, during and after air quality intervention methods were implemented by local residents. This included monitoring at a local school and measures to reduce air pollution at this location. The pupils were informed of air quality, it's negative impacts on health and what we can do to mitigate air quality in assemblies/presentations. The documentary 'Fighting For Air' aired on BBC 2.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09m2djj