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This evening, XR York will take to the road in a peaceful swarming action to highlight the city’s congestion problem. Petra Bistričić, student and Action & Logistics Coordinator, will speak at the City of York council’s meeting taking place during the swarm. Her address follows below.

“Members of Extinction Rebellion York are currently holding road blocks around the city of York. They are doing this not because they enjoy disrupting people’s commute or because they simply have extra time on their hands. They are holding roadblocks because they are concerned about the health of the people of York and the harmful air pollution levels within the city.

Ultimately, the goal is to secure a car-free city, as this is the best way to make the people of York healthier whilst ensuring that York keeps its promise to go carbon neutral by 2030.

Air pollution is an urgent issue

 According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. Heightened air pollution levels increase the chances of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases including asthma. 

Air pollution is an issue in York primarily because of road traffic. Road traffic pollutes us with both nitrogen dioxide and other small particles that penetrate deep into our lunges and our bloodstream. 

Public Health England estimates that there are 82 premature deaths a year in York from particulate pollution. When we take into account not only particulate pollution but also nitrogen dioxide levels, the numbers rise even higher… It is estimated that between 94 and 163 people die prematurely each year in York from traffic pollution. This problem is common across the country.

Measuring the impact

Air pollution has been measured on York’s streets and more than a dozen exceed the air pollution limits set by the World Health Organisation, including Rougier Street, Gillygate, and Bootham.

We are aware that York council has made steps to improve the air quality within the city as part of their Air Quality Action Plan. Among other things, emission standards have been set for taxis and they are encouraged to move to low emission vehicles. There is also an increase of low emission vehicles providing public transport within York. We appreciate these steps, but unfortunately we do not think this is nearly enough to reach our 2030 target or provide healthy lives for the people of York.

Low emission vehicles will not prevent air pollution

Even electric cars produce air pollution because of brake and tyre wear. Sometimes, they produce even more pollution than standard petrol cars. The best way to reduce air pollution levels is to substantially reduce traffic levels within the city whilst allowing the citizens of York to have excellent public transport links, walking routes and cycle networks.

We urge the city of York council to take this health emergency seriously and to make the adjustments needed to provide the citizens of York with efficient transport links which are beneficial to their health.

Extinction Rebellion York plans to continue protesting through roadblocks monthly until we feel that our concern for the health of the people of York is met with sufficient action.”

To find out more, visit

XR York’s arts team prepares for the upcoming car free city swarm


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