London goes car-free

Written by:
Leah Johnston
Date Posted:
23 September 2019
Tech News

A breath of fresh air for climate change activists

Fight Against Fuel
For years we have been trying to reduce our vehicle emissions, and whilst the invention of electric and hybrid cars have improved our output, there is one thing we haven’t yet tried – banning cars entirely. 

Following a weekend of global climate change strikes and marches, on Sunday 22nd September, 200 roads in London went car-free, in an attempt to tackle the air pollution crisis. The project follows the movements of major capitals, such as Paris and New York, who have implemented similar schemes for pollution reduction.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced the ban on motorists using their vehicles across a 12.5-mile range on the Capitals’ roads earlier this year, fittingly on Clean Air Day. Sadiq Khan commented, 

“London is leading the way in innovative measures to improve air pollution and I want this year’s Car Free Day events to be the best of any world city… This will be a great opportunity for us all to leave our cars behind and explore our streets by foot, or by bike” 

A Green City
The scheme, which involved 18 London boroughs from Waterloo to Elephant and Castle, is hoped to help encourage the adoption of green transport in the capital. 

Following growing concerns over climate change, the mayor has promised to make the capital zero carbon by 2050, starting with the new Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) being rolled out this year. Electric cars are exempt from the charges, encouraging drivers to go fuel-free. By charging high-polluting cars an extra £12.50 per day in the ULEZ, on top of the existing £11.50 daily congestion charge, the Mayor is hoping that 80% of all London transport will be sustainable by 2041. 

Sadiq Khan wanted Londoners to “reimagine” their city on Sunday by thinking about what it would be like without cars and traffic. “I encourage as many Londoners as possible to join in the fun and see the city from a different perspective,” he said in a statement. 

Max Wakefield, from climate group 10:10, said, “If this event goes well, then why not make it quarterly, monthly or even weekly – and experiment with car-free weekdays too.”

Crisis Vs. Chaos
Unsurprisingly, not everyone was on board with the scheme, with criticism surrounding the damage to business for taxi drivers, as well as issues for the disabled and elderly in need of transportation across the city. 

Keith Prince, GLA Conservative Transport Spokesman, commented, “Londoners want cleaner air but car-free days risk travel chaos if managed poorly while doing little to tackle air pollution.”

According to the mayor’s office, more than two million Londoners live in areas that exceed legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, including more than 40,000 children. With vehicles reportedly being responsible for around half of the harmful NO2 emissions in London, it seems an appropriate time to be thinking of new ways to reduce harm, both to our planet and to the human race.

Was this car-free day a glimpse into our future, or a distant fantasy?

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