Doctors will embark on a three-day bike ride around the Greater London boundary on Saturday to “celebrate” the imminent expansion of the ultra-low emission zone.
They say Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion, across all 33 boroughs from August 29, was a “small step in the right direction towards cleaner air”. They called on all healthcare workers in the capital to campaign for clean air.
Dr Mark Hayden, a London paediatrician and the cycle ride’s organiser, told the Standard: “For me, I struggle now to think of a disease that is not exacerbated or made worse by pollution.
“We felt it was a good way for us, as healthcare providers, to speak up for the truth: that polluted air is highly toxic, causes the NHS a lot of harm and is costing the NHS a lot of money [to treat].”
The 155-mile “Ride for their Lives” will start tomorrow in Havering and continue on Sunday and Monday. Up to a dozen medics are expected to take part. The aim is for the route to follow the capital’s boundary, which will become the Ulez boundary.
Some of the doctors previously took part in a bike ride to Glasgow to mark the Cop26 summit in 2021.
Dr Hayden referred to the coroner’s prevention of future deaths report issued following the inquest into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, and the advice from chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty for the NHS to stop creating air pollution and to educate itself and patients about its dangers.
The cyclists - GPs, paediatricians, junior doctors, an emergency medicine doctor, a physiotherapist, an anaesthetist and a neonatologist - have backed the “clean air wins” campaign which warns that toxic air is placing a “huge strain” on hospital wards.
Dr Hayden said: "Too often the health benefits are ignored. Air pollution crosses the placenta and causes harm before birth, the damage accumulates throughout childhood and adult life.
“At a time when the NHS is already under immense pressure, air pollution is causing a huge strain on hospital wards across the country that could be prevented today.
“The Ulez works, particularly for reducing NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), the main culprit in asthma. It is a small step in the right direction towards cleaner air and more safe active travel.
“So we’re cycling to celebrate this expansion, and we call on all healthcare workers across London to speak up for safe air."
Dr Anna Moore, a respiratory doctor from London who is joining the cycle ride, said: “There is no organ in the body which is not harmed by air pollution.
“Our health service is under extraordinary pressure; waiting lists are too long, emergency services are overwhelmed.
“Cleaning up the air we all breathe would prevent or reduce so much illness - from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, strokes to dementia, asthma to COPD. Imagine the positive impact on our NHS if we did.”
Mr Khan said: “It is fantastic that this amazing group will be raising awareness about the importance of expanding the Ulez London-wide.”