William Eichler 10 October 2017

London mayor should encourage walking and cycling to cut pollution levels

Transport and environment experts have called on the Mayor of London to make more efficient use of the capital’s finite road network as part of a push to tackle air pollution.

The independent Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets has urged Sadiq Khan to be ‘bold’ in reducing car use and dealing with London’s chronic air pollution, congestion and health challenges.

The commission, convened by the think tank Centre for London, said the city’s road network should be used ‘more efficiently’ and more should be done to create a transport system centred on public transport, walking and cycling.

The report published by the commission has set out a number of measures designed to improve London’s transport system, including extending existing payment platforms Oyster and Contactless to incorporate new types of services like car clubs, cycle hire, taxis and cabs.

The report also recommended the introduction of a cashback scrappage scheme that could target the most polluting vehicles, and replacing the Congestion Charge with a pan-London, pre-pay smart road user pricing scheme, which reflects the internal and external costs, and environmental impacts of journeys.

‘London’s transport system is admired around the world and more and more Londoners are giving up private cars in favour of public transport, walking, cycling and a range of new mobility services,’ said Ben Rogers, director of Centre for London.

‘The Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy makes it clear he wants to see this trend continue. But he will need to introduce some brave and farsighted reforms if we are going to tackle London’s worsening congestion and air pollution, and create a healthier and more liveable city.

‘With the help of the reforms proposed by the Commission, London could be admired across the world for the way it enables easy, pollution-free and affordable movement around the city, the vitality of its neighbourhoods, and the quality of its public realm.’

The commission’s report has been released one day after city leaders and mayors met in Cardiff to call on the Government to take more action on air pollution, which they said was responsible for 15,000 deaths across ten cities every year.

They said Whitehall should incentivise the take-up of low emission and electric vans and cars and adds that it needs to support struggling businesses and people who may find it hardest to upgrade their vehicles.

They also called for a memorandum of understanding which would set out how local and national government can work together to tackle poor air quality.

Cllr Judith Blake, chair of Core Cities UK, which organised the gathering, and leader of Leeds City Council, said: ‘Air pollution results in a shocking death toll across our cities every year and we need to act locally and act quickly.

‘As well as the avoidable deaths, poor air quality also results in long-term illness, making people’s lives unproductive and miserable for years.’

Referring to the Government’s Air Quality Plan, Cllr Blake added: ‘The Government’s plan is a good start, but it falls well short of delivering a sustainable solution. What we need is for Whitehall and Westminster to work with us so we can make a difference.

‘We want an agreement with Government that will set out how local and national leadership can work together, giving cities tools and resources to deliver the local changes each place needs.’

In their report, the Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets said they supported moves to promote electric over petrol and diesel vehicles, but warned these still produced dangerous particles from brakes, tyres and roadware.

Research based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory recently revealed that London exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the dangerous toxic particles known as PM2.5 which come from tyre and brake wear as well as construction and wood burning.

Responding to the findings about the levels of PM2.5, ‘I am doing everything in my powers to significantly reduce NOx emissions by introducing the T-Charge to drive down the number of dirty vehicles polluting our roads and our lungs and implementing an Ultra Low Emission Zone with even tighter standards.

‘I also urge the Government to devolve powers to me so I can get on with tackling the dangerous toxic air particles – known as PM2.5 – that we know come from construction sites and wood burning stoves. It’s measures like these that we need to get on with now to protect our children and our children’s children.’ 

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