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  • Matt Northin

Old Street Roundabout (and first Data Stream post!)

Updated: Apr 21

It's been a while since I'd been to the Old Street Roundabout, arguably one of the busiest roads in London. Keeping it local, I wanted to see what data was available, and attempt a first data visualisation for Corona Climate Data.


Old Street Roundabout during busier times

As a cyclist, Old Street was one of the places that I used to avoid like the plague - there's multiple lanes and it always seems to be under construction. There's been sadly quite a few accidents with cyclists, due to how busy it is.


I live locally, and on a run the other day, it was basically transformed into no-mans land - gone was all the traffic, I'd never seen it like that before. The air was super fresh, and I felt like I was running faster.


I'd seen some articles in the Guardian around the drop of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in China, but recorded from a Satellite. While great on a macro scale, I wanted to start small in my ambitions and see what was available to me locally.


Nitrogen Dioxide is produced mainly from the burning of fuel. In central London, this is usually from the cars and trucks that are driven around. It causes a host of respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath and coughing. It can also have long term impacts, inflaming the lungs, and reducing the bodies immunity to lung infections.


Looking for my first data stream to analyse, I found the great site, londonair.org.uk. London Air is part of the London Air Quality Network, and has measuring stations all over London and the South-east. They also have a measuring station right by the Old Street Roundabout, which conveniently measures NO2 levels (along with a host of other data).


Hoping to prove my theory that less cars = less NO2 = cleaner air = better running time - I was amazed to find that there were huge decreases Year on Year, when comparing data from 2018 and 2019 to 2020.


As a side note - on the recommendation from the Data Editor, Chris Knox, of the New Zealand Herald - I'm using the visualisation platform, flourish.studio. Flourish are based in London - I haven't reached out to them, but if they're reading this - hello! It seems like a pretty great platform, easy to use and web based. Along with buying more locally, I'm keen to support the local startup scene as much as possible.


Anyway, for consistency of the data that I was wanting to analyse, and to match seasonality, I tried to match the days as best as possible. I'm also trying to mar up the dates that we went into lockdown in London. You could argue that 'Lockdown' officially started on Saturday the 25th of March, but I was already social distancing at least 7 days before, and a lot of other people were as well.


Looking deeper into the data, just two days ago - the 19th of April, we've seen massive change over the years. From 2018, when pollution was some of the highest across this time period, we saw a reduction in NO2 by over 84%. Comparing last year to this year, we saw a decrease of 75% for April 19th. I'm excited that there's been such a massive reduction, and glad that my first data set was able to prove the impact that the slowdown has had. I'm hoping there's more to be found.

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