Does Pollution Kill 9,500 People a Year in London?

Part of the core justification for the ULEZ charge is to increase air quality in London. Here at We Ride London we have no doubt that removing heavily polluting vehicles like diesel buses and trucks from London will improve air quality. As we also maintain, a moving vehicle has a net 'pollution footprint' that is significantly less than a stationary vehicle.

This is why we are campaigning to encourage more people onto all two wheeled transport, including motorcycles, scooter, mopeds and bicycles. This will keep London moving while at the same time reducing emissions for both the moving vehicles and reduce the stop/start traffic for cars and other vehicles and therefore reducing pollution from them also.

However, one statistic keeps coming up. "9,500 people die in London EACH YEAR due to air pollution". This is a terrible statistic if true. Is it true? Put simply: no.

There is no doubt that air quality contributes to respiratory deaths in London, particularly in higher risk demographics such as those that are already chronically ill and our increasingly aged pollution. A freedom of information request for 2015 data reveals the total number of deaths for ALL respiratory illnesses in the capital is nearly 3,000 less than the quoted 9,500! 

Analysis by the Office Of National Statistics confirms that the total number of deaths for 2015 is 6,881. BUT, that total includes; smoking related Lung Cancer, Flu, and Pneumonia.

How many are directly related to air quality? Nobody knows.....

For more detailed information about facts and figures and the background to the concerns we need to have addressed, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) have done a fair bit of work myth busting in this space. You can contact them by email at or by phone on 019 2684 4060.

Mike Butler