Road Closures Culture War

The Daily Telegraph covered the alleged “culture war” caused by road closures in Islington today. The article said: “The leader of Islington council, Richard Watts, hit back at suggestions that the road closure plans were ‘anti-working class’, writing on Twitter: ‘Car ownership in inner-London is linked to income. The richer you are, the more likely you are to own a car. The truth is we’re stopping affluent people polluting working class communities’.

Eliska Finlay, who lives in Crystal Palace, where further demonstrations have been taking place, claimed that the changes have led to a ‘culture war. People are being singled out and targeted for having cars’, the 45-year-old mother of two said”.

It’s certainly true that most of the local councils that are closing roads, as opposed to just putting in over Covid-19 measures such as widening pavements and installing cycle lanes, are left-wing, Labour dominated councils.

Are Labour councillors attacking wealthy car owners indirectly by closing roads?  Perhaps but in reality they are often attacking their own electorate because it’s not just the wealthy who drive vehicles. In Lewisham for instance it’s about 50% of households who own a car and if you walk the streets of Lewisham as I have done, you won’t find many expensive vehicles. Road closures attack workers such as plumbers plus other service occupations, and social service workers who need vehicles to quickly get around the people they help. They also attack delivery drivers who deliver the goods we need, often to people undertaking self-isolation at present.

Richard Watts is surely just rationalising a view that all vehicles should be banned and turning Islington into a ghetto of poor people and the healthy young who can cycle because even the middle classes won’t want to live there as vehicles are so essential for so many purposes. That’s unless you want to be restricted to short walking and cycling distances or using public transport and have no incapacities.

If you actually look at air quality in Islington, the minor roads only contribute 6% of NOX emissions, whereas 20% comes from gas boilers. Buses and coaches also contribute 38% whereas cars only contribute 28% (source: Islington Air Quality Strategy 2019-2023). One could argue that it is the public transport users who are polluting the most!

We surely need to have less divisive politics which can cope with the needs and preferences of more than just one segment of the population.

Roger Lawson

The Telegraph article is here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/11/coronavirus-road-closurescreating-culture-war-residents-warn/

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Seminar on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

There is a great deal of irrationality in the world at present. A good example was a webinar I attended this morning run by Landor Links on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). These are being promoted by the Government and frequently consist of road closures using the euphemistically named “modal filters” Several of the speakers promoted the wonders of such schemes typically using slides showing the joy of cycling in sunny weather. They failed to cover how the residents of boroughs such as Waltham Forest got to vote on the proposals, before or after implementation – they did not of course! I know there is a very large amount of opposition in Waltham Forest, in Lewisham in the Oval area, in Islington and several other parts of London. But the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to justify emergency measures without any public consultation.

It’s all quite disgraceful as democracy is being undermined and the road network is being destroyed. Traffic congestion in Lewisham for example has been made a lot worse to my personal knowledge and that’s even before the schools return. Labour controlled Councils are frequently a particular problem as they tend to like to decide what is good for you rather than listening to their electorate or taking into account any rational arguments.

This is all part of the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy which the ABD has been campaigning against for some time (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ). But boroughs such as Lewisham controlled by keen cyclists are pushing through simple anti-car measures without any reason and to the disadvantage of many groups of people who need to use vehicles.

Roger Lawson

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London Resort Public Consultation

One of the biggest development projects in the South-East is planned. It’s called the “London Resort” and will comprise a theme park, hotels with 3,350 rooms, 500 homes, a conference centre and other facilities. In total it will cover 1,245 acres which is larger than the largest theme park in the UK (Alton Towers).

Where exactly will it be? In Swanscombe which is just east of the Dartford Crossing. The road network in the area is of course very heavily congested already as there has been a large amount of development in Kent in recent years and the M25 and Dartford Crossing capacity is insufficient to cope with existing demand although the new Lower Thames crossing further east may help and there are plans for a direct link to the A2. The developers also propose to put transport facilities on the north side of the river Thames.

The developers are currently running a public consultation on their plans. See here for more details: https://londonresort.info/ . Residents in the area should certainly take a look at them and give their views.

It may be some time before a planning application is made and any traffic study would be worth a close look.

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Lewisham and Islington Road Closures

The ABD has received a large number of complaints about the road closures in Lewisham. They are overwhelmingly opposed to them. You can see some of them in this document: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lewisham-Comments-Received.pdf   (click on to access).

We also now have over 3,300 signatures to our petition against the closures including many comments which you can see here: http://chng.it/ft4KcrVM  

We will be sending all the comments and signatures to Lewisham Councillors and staff in the next few days.

Do make sure you add your own comments to the Lewisham Commonplace web site here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/  and “like” the comments of others you support. Click on the top right to see the list of roads on which you can add comments. Note that posts on this web site may be used by the council to claim support for their road closures when unfortunately it is clear that repetitive posts by the same people are being added to try and crowd out opposition. It is therefore very important that you record your opposition to the road closures there and give your reasons why.

Note that our campaign web page is here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm  

We are delivering the leaflet you may have seen to wider areas of Lewisham in the next few days – it has received the highest response rate of any campaign leaflet we have delivered in the last ten years. Meanwhile opposition grows to road closures in the rest of London. But you do need to tell your own councillors what you think about what is happening. It would also help to tell your London Assembly Member and your local Member of Parliament.

Opposition to closures in Islington is particularly active and there have been several public demonstrations against them in Islington. A group is raising funds to pay for campaign literature – see https://www.gofundme.com/f/ludicrous-road-closures

Roger Lawson

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Cycling and Walking Revolution and Highway Code Changes

The Prime Minister has announced a “£2 billion cycling and walking revolution” – see Reference 1 below for the Government’s press release. There is also a consultation launched on changes to the Highway Code – see Reference 2.  I will comment on some of the implications for London and give my personal comments on the Highway Code changes as the ABD nationally will be formulating a formal response in due course – your views might assist.

The £2 billion might sound a lot of money but spread over some years it might not be a great deal. It includes the provision of new “protected” cycle routes. If they were segregated from other road traffic that might make much sense to avoid conflict but the danger is that it will just mean more cycle lanes taking away road space with fairly disastrous results for traffic congestion as seen in London.

Boris Johnson’s press release suggests that getting people to cycle and walk will enable them to lose weight and get fitter thereby generally improving their health. The only problem with this is that, as anyone who has tried to lose weight knows, you have to do an awful lot of exercise to lose much weight. In reality the only way to significantly lose weight is to eat fewer calories and drink less alcohol. Exercise can only contribute in a minor way, not that I would discourage you from taking it.

For the elderly taking up cycling can be positively dangerous. My brother-in-law just fell off a bike in Italy and hurt his shoulder which was already damaged, and he is an experienced cyclist. But if you really want to take up cycling the Government is to provide cycle training, vouchers to fix your old bike, or possibly assistance to buy a new electric one (details not yet clear).

The Government is to encourage “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” that might include road closures like we have seen in Lewisham and other London boroughs, much to the disgust of many residents. The result has been more traffic congestion, not less, and there has been no public consultation before putting in the measures using the epidemic as an excuse. It’s good to see that the Government says that includes “consulting on communities’ right to close side streets” – I look forward to such consultations! I trust they will be made retrospective.

All this enthusiasm for cycling is of course driven by the fine weather, and the fact that sporting facilities such as gyms have been closed. People may continue to avoid the latter, hence all the weekend cyclists. In London commuters have also been avoiding public transport so cycling has been seen to be a viable alternative to avoid the risk of infection. And it’s cheaper than using public transport unless you have a concessionary fare.

But cyclists are still a minority of traffic on London’s roads (about 2% according to the last reported data from 2018). See Reference 3 below for the trends in traffic data. Will the Government really turn the UK into the cycling capital of the world? I doubt it. It might be popular for young males, but will it ever be for the elderly and never for the disabled or sick surely (of which there are an enormous number in London – actually 21% of adults).

The convenience of a vehicle for transporting people (such as family members) and goods over short and long distances, in all weathers and safely just cannot be beaten. Those who can afford a vehicle and have space to park it usually learn to drive and buy a vehicle sooner or later. It opens up many new leisure and work opportunities and gives you access to a much wider geographic area that may simply be impractical to access via public transport in a sensible timeframe.

Highway Code Changes

The proposed changes, to which you can respond in a public consultation, are not all bad in my opinion (see the link below). But there are some issues I note:

– It introduces a “hierarchy of road users”. I always thought all people who use the roads should be treated equally as in essence all people have the same rights and responsibilities in a free society. They should also share the roads irrespective of their chosen transport modes. To give more obligations and responsibilities to any one class of road user is wrong.

– There is a change that does not dissuade cyclists from overtaking vehicles on the left. That is a dangerous manoeuvre on crowded London roads as cyclists may be in a blind spot on some vehicles.

– They are also proposing to introduce specific passing distances for cyclists which will cause unnecessary difficulties on many narrow London roads. More flexible rules should be set rather than fixed limits. They also encourage cyclists to ride in the centre of a lane which will delay/obstruct other traffic and cause needless annoyance, and they encourage cyclists to ride 2-abreast also.

– They also encourage the use of the “Dutch Reach” when opening a car door. This is really only practical in small vehicles and for those people who can turn their head through 180 degrees – many elderly people cannot. It’s actually safer to look in a door mounted wing mirror when a wider view of traffic approaching from behind can be seen (including cyclists).

In summary, many of the changes favour pedestrians and cyclists and might improve their safety, but those for cyclists are often irrational and unnecessary. They will be particularly problematic in London where the behaviour of cyclists is often quite appallingly bad. There is more helpful guidance for cyclists in the new Code, but will they actually read it? They unfortunately have no obligation to do so and many clearly have historically not done so. At least vehicle owners have to pass a test to ensure they know it.

Roger Lawson

Ref. 1: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-kickstarts-2bn-cycling-and-walking-revolution

Ref. 2: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-highway-code-to-improve-road-safety-for-cyclists-pedestrians-and-horse-riders

Ref. 3: https://roadtraffic.dft.gov.uk/regions/6

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More London Road Closures and Another TfL Bailout

Lewisham: The opposition to road closures in Lewisham grows daily with more people responding to our leaflet drop and more people signing the petition against them. We now have 2,700 signatures to this petition: http://chng.it/ft4KcrVM . Please sign it if you have not done so already.

We sent out an update to our Lewisham campaign contacts today and this is some of what it said (you can register to follow the campaign on this page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm ):

We have received numerous complaints about much longer journey times (sometimes over an hour added to a local trip). Residents are the biggest source of complaints by far, not people from outside travelling through the area. We will publish some of them soon.

A few people support the road closures, but most do not. The Council has done a great job of setting one group of residents against another instead of trying to resolve past complaints about traffic congestion, speeding traffic and air pollution. The road closures have made traffic congestion worse and air pollution probably worse also as people spend longer in queues of traffic on the major roads.

Legal Action

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been consulting solicitors on whether a legal challenge can be mounted against the use of Temporary Traffic Orders to close roads. We believe this is a misuse of the relevant legislation and associated regulations. The needs of the elderly and disabled have also been ignored which is probably a breach of the Equalities Act. The lack of proper and full public consultation before the closures were implemented may also be illegal and is certainly obnoxious.

Note that if we proceed with legal action then we will probably need to raise funds to cover the legal costs. Such actions would almost certainly need to be taken in the High Court and hence are expensive. We will advise further on that at a later date. In the meantime it’s worth pointing out that we have already incurred considerable costs on the Lewisham campaign which have been paid for by the ABD or its Members. If you wish to support us then please make a donation here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/donate.htm

Note that we are extending the area in Lewisham that we covered with our leaflet drop. This will incur considerable extra cost.

Why the ABD is Fighting The Lewisham Campaign

Some respondents to our Lewisham leaflet questioned our motives in undertaking this campaign in Lewisham and suggested we are solely supporting those who drive through the area rather than local residents. This is false.

The ABD is a national organisation that promotes and defends the interests of motorists everywhere they may be. We are not against helping people to cycle or walk, or opposed to improving the environment or reducing air pollution. But we do believe in a rational approach to such issues that does not unreasonably prejudice those who need to use vehicles.

We support local residents against unreasonable impositions by Councils but we also wish to see the road network maintained as a functioning system, and improved where possible, for the good of everyone. Not all people can use public transport for all journeys, or can walk or cycle everywhere. A functioning road system is essential also for goods deliveries, for buses and for emergency service vehicle access.

The ABD got extensive press coverage on our campaign in Lewisham and if we can obtain a legal judgement on the issues this would set a wider precedent. We will continue to fight this campaign until councillors see reason and withdraw the road closures.

Islington: There was a large public demonstration by Islington residents against the road closures in the borough last week. This was outside Islington Town Hall and another is planned for this week. It’s good to see such opposition. A photograph posted on Twitter by AutomaticDog is shown below.

Hammersmith & Fulham: Complaints about the road closures in South Fulham have caused the Council to drop them. But they are replaced by a scheme whereby cameras are used to stop vehicles other than those registered in the area from entering. See https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/articles/news/2020/07/pioneering-new-sw6-traffic-reduction-scheme-launch-20-july . The ABD is opposed to such schemes because it causes problems for visitors and for delivery drivers. It is also administratively complex and undermines the general principle that all roads should be open to everyone as everyone pays for them.

This is what local M.P. Greg Hands had to say about it: “This scheme is clearly designed to be a revenue raiser by Labour run Hammersmith and Fulham Council. On top of the existing million-pound moneybox junction, this scheme will hammer residents, visitors and essential deliveries hard, in addition to increasing traffic on the already congested Wandsworth Bridge Road.

There has been minimal consultation with residents, and Fulham has not reacted well to this money grab by greedy Labour councillors. The Council need to shelve its hastily conceived scheme and consult and involve residents. Traffic in Fulham is a problem, but this is not the solution.”

TfL Needs Billions of Pounds

Transport for London (TfL) is seeking another bail-out in addition to the £1.6 billion already supplied by the Government due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on revenues. They are now seeking another £3.5 billion.

Apart from the epidemic impact, an additional problem has been the further delay in the completion of Crossrail. It was supposed to open next summer but any new date is unknown. This was budgeted to add significantly to TfL’s revenue.

The Government is undertaking a review of TfL’s financing but Sadiq Khan responded by appointing his own “independent” panel to examine long-term funding.

These were my comments on Twitter: “What’s another few billion pounds to keep Sadiq Khan in power? But it would be cheaper to sack him and most of TfL”. Tory Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey said this: “Sadiq Khan wants another TfL bailout. He’s blaming coronavirus again. But the virus didn’t cause 4 years of negligence. £5bn lost on Crossrail delays, £640m on subsidising tourist travel, £56m a year on TfL staff earning £100k+ and Record levels of debt”. That’s a good summary. You can read what we said about the ludicrous finances of TfL in January (i.e. before the epidemic) here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

But TfL still have the funds to finance road closures in boroughs all over London!

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Road Policing and Making Money from Speeding

A very interesting report has recently been published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) under the title “Roads Policing: Not Optional”. It has some particularly interesting things to say about the use of speed cameras but is generally critical about the fall in attention to roads policing. Staff and other resources have been reduced over the last few years, with automated enforcement of speeding offences when all the other dangerous driving activities are ignored.

The chart below from the report shows how road fatalities in the UK have plateaued in the last ten years:

The report states bluntly that “Roads policing in some forces is inadequate”. It is clear that many police forces do not consider roads policing a priority. Fatal and serious injury road accidents where illegal speed is a factor (above the speed limit) also frequently feature a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and crime and hence are not amenable to automated enforcement. The ABD has long argued for more police officers to be deployed on our roads. Instead expenditure on roads policing has been cut and ever more emphasis is placed on speed enforcement when that is a factor in relatively few road casualty accidents. See the ABD Press Release below for more information.

The HMICFRS Report is particularly interesting on pages 28 to 30 where it discusses the financial arrangements associated with police speed camera operations. For example it says: “Crucially, what constitutes recovery of costs is

open to interpretation”. That hints, and quite correctly, that police forces are generating profits that are used on anything they choose as the ABD has previously claimed (see www.speed-awareness.org for details of the evidence). The report also suggests that police forces and local safety partnerships should publish on an annual basis the details of revenue and on what that revenue is spent.

The report also notes this: “This apparent unwillingness to support education over enforcement had led to suspicion among officers, including some at chief officer level, that the focus of activity was intended to increase revenue for the safety partnership. In support of this, they gave examples of some camera sites that they believed didn’t have a history of collisions or other identified vulnerabilities”. And “Elsewhere, we were told that the reason enforcement took place at certain locations was that they were ‘good hunting grounds’, rather than because they had a history of collisions”.

The report suggests that guidelines over how and where cameras are located should be refreshed. But the problem will remain that where there is a financial incentive, the abuse will continue as police forces continue to be short of money.

It is just too much of a temptation to concentrate on speed enforcement rather than focus on the road safety issues that might reduce deaths and injuries.

The whole system needs to be reformed to stop the abuses that cause millions of drivers to pay money to the police and the course operators for “education” which has not been shown to have any road safety benefit whatsoever.

The HMICFRS Report is available from here: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publications/not-optional-an-inspection-of-roads-policing-in-england-and-wales/

ABD Press Release on the HMICFRS Report: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-greed-cameras-exposed-in-new-police-watchdog-report/

Roger Lawson

(Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmpowABD )

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How to Ensure Councillors Oppose Road Closures

All over London boroughs are closing roads using the Covid-19 epidemic as a spurious excuse. Road closures do not help social distancing, rather the opposite. Councillors in many boroughs are pursuing their own agenda to remove all vehicles using Temporary Traffic Orders which are likely to be made permanent in due course unless you oppose them.

The following is a note you can send to your local Councillors to make sure they understand your views on the issue (their contact details are usually available on the Council’s web site):

Dear Councillor,

In the current Covid-19 Epidemic, the Government is encouraging local Councils to introduce measures to temporarily:

a)       Provide more social distancing for pedestrians – for example by widening pavements.

b)       Encourage the use of active transport modes such as cycling or walking so as to relieve the pressure on public transport where there will be limited capacity in the short term and to encourage people to use other forms of transport than cars where increased use might lead to congestion.

That includes new Statutory Guidance under the Traffic Management Act 2004. The suggestion is that Temporary Traffic Orders might be used to implement such measures, where such Orders are required.

I have no objection to ensuring that pavements are sufficiently wide to avoid close contact, the possible suspension of parking bays to enable wider pavements and some provision of cycle lanes on a temporary basis so long as road space is not permanently removed. However, there is a suggestion that road closures might also be considered.

Closing roads (e.g. by the use of “modal filters” or “school streets” involving timed closures) provides absolutely no benefit in terms of social distancing and should therefore not be considered unless there are very good reasons to do so. Neither do they encourage cycling as roads can always be shared between cyclists and other road users.

In addition road closures delay emergency service vehicles who have to take longer routes or can get delayed by extra traffic congestion on main roads. When ambulances are delayed, seconds can count in keeping people alive.

Could you please therefore ensure that our local council does not close roads, even temporarily, in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. It is extremely important that the road network is maintained in a fit state and no artificial restraints are placed on it. Road closures can very rarely be justified even in normal times and it is particularly important at present not to create longer journey times and more traffic congestion.

It is also important to bear in mind that many disabled and elderly people rely on their motor vehicles and they will certainly not be capable or willing to cycle or walk instead. Regrettably the Government seems to have ignored a substantial section of the population in some of their advice but there is no good reason why you need to go to such extremes.

Please consider my comments above and advise your policy on this issue.

<End of Note>

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Opposition to Road Closures in London Grows – Sign the Petitions

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The opposition to “temporary” road closures in London grows daily. These are being put in by a number of London boroughs, using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. The argument is that road closures help with social distancing but it is very unclear how. Widening pavements and cycle lanes may assist but road closures do not – they just divert traffic onto other roads thereby creating more congestion, or encourage people to use public transport where the risks of infection are very high.

Gridlock is happening all over the place as normal routes used by delivery drivers, social care workers and those elderly and disabled who need to use a car or taxis find the roads blocked. It’s clearly the intention to make these measures permanent in due course in many boroughs, driven by those ideologically opposed to the use of vehicles of all kinds.

You can join the opposition to the closures by signing all the relevant petitions some of which are given below – there may be others in your local area if you search for them.

Lewisham: There is a petition on Change.org created by the ABD which has already collected 1,500 signatures – see http://chng.it/ft4KcrVM . Please sign it if you have not done so already. There is also a petition against the specific closures in Lee Green ward created by a local resident – see  http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=46 and against the closure of South Row near Blackheath – see http://chng.it/PNWJWG57Sn

Lambeth: Opposition to road closures in the Oval Triangle: http://chng.it/wywrxJVmz2 . There is also a council e-petition for Lambeth residents here: https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?Id=478 . And there is a specific petition against closures of Railton Road and Shakespeare Road on Change.org here:  http://chng.it/hf5MdDmX9W . Plus one on the St Matthews Road closure: http://chng.it/YKwqY6tWVH

Islington: Opposition to road closures in Prebend Street, Colebrooke Row, etc, in the St. Peters Ward: https://www.change.org/p/islington-residents-stop-islington-councils-closure-of-local-roads

Waltham Forest:  A petition against road closures in the borough: https://www.change.org/p/cllr-clare-coghill-walthamforest-gov-uk-stop-road-closures

Southwark: A petition against road closures in the Walworth/Kennington area: https://www.change.org/p/southwark-council-no-to-cooks-road-chapter-road-carter-street-closures

Croydon: A petition against the closure of the Southern Avenue/ Lancaster Road Junction, in South Norwood: https://www.change.org/p/croydon-council-reopen-southern-avenue-lancaster-road-junction

Sunbury: A petition against an “Active Travel” scheme including road closures in Sunbury: https://www.change.org/p/surrey-county-council-cancel-active-travel-scheme-in-lower-sunbury

Wandsworth: Opposition to a “Low Traffic Neighbourhood” in Heaver/Balham South: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-heaver-ltn-1

Ealing: Opposition to plans for “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” and the failure of the Council to disclose those plans: http://chng.it/wncQVWDbsG

There are also road closures taking place in these London boroughs: Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Enfield and Kingston. If you live or work in those boroughs, why not create your own petition against them? It’s very easy to do so on Change.org.  

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Air Quality and the ULEZ – It’s a Vindictive but Unjustified Measure

This article is by James Hockney who is a Councillor in the London Borough of Enfield and represents the Bush Hill Park ward. He was the Conservatives Parliamentary Candidate for the Edmonton constituency at the last General Election.

We all want better air quality, right? Well, I have good news for you. It is getting better. 

This map from 2013 shows almost all of London outside the Central London Congestion Charge area with emissions within safe levels. Main trunk roads routes and major junctions, plus Heathrow, are the exceptions. 

However, this map is seven years old and the situation has improved.

In the latest report on Air Quality from Aether UK, which dates from 2017, it was estimated that almost all the areas identified as having dangerous levels of pollution in a study in 2010, now had safe levels of air quality. TfL’s own figures show a steady fall in emissions of NOx and this is predicted to continue.

There are a number of reasons for this. European Union legislation has been requiring lower emissions from vehicles for more than two decades. The latest standards are deemed acceptable, even in the new Ultra Low Emission Zone in Central London. Heavier vehicles have also been subject to the “Low Emission Zone” – which covers almost all of London – since 2008. A Ken Livingstone policy; implemented by Boris Johnson.

Car use has also fallen dramatically, with journeys to work by car or motorcycle in London halving from almost 154m a year in 2000 to just over 70m a year in 2017. Cycling in the same period has almost quadrupled from 11m to 40m and public transport use has increased from 260m journeys to 330m.

So, are further measures justified?

This chart from the Aether UK report suggests not:

Already, it is estimated that fewer than 1% of Londoners are exposed to air quality above the safe level. This is attributed to earlier tightening of vehicle standards and modal shift away from cars, trends that are continuing.

Lastly, whilst it is an emotive issue – and whenever one of those poorly maintained vans drives past you with its exhaust belching sooty black smoke, a very visible and noxious one – the focus on vehicles is perhaps missing the point. Again, TfL’s own reports show that domestic and commercial gas heating is the source of almost one quarter of all NOx emissions and almost half of those in Central London. Interestingly, at the time of the consultation on expanding the ULEZ, the figures for all of London showed road transport responsible for 51% of all emissions. This suggests they have fallen by a quarter in the last seven years.

When it comes to particulate emissions the story is similar. Tightening standards have cut PM10 particulate emission from vehicles by almost 95% and PM2.5 emissions have fallen by 75%. It is also unlikely that the ULEZ will cut particulate emissions very much anyway, as the majority of particulates come from brake and tyre wear and the “re-suspension” of those particles. Switching to electric vehicles isn’t going to help with that as they still need to steer and stop.

This rather makes the very marginal benefit of extending the central London ULEZ out to the A406/A205 boundary appear to be a vindictive measure, not one driven by evidence. There is a very marginal early benefit, coming from an assumption that it will bring forward decisions to change vehicles, but by 2030, emissions are predicted to be at exactly the same level with or without the scheme. 

Sadly for some people that is not going to be an option. The high-mileage company car will get changed. But if you are an elderly couple with limited cash and a fixed pension income, changing a car you probably bought expecting it to see you out, is probably not an option. So, they will pay £12.50 to drive to their local hospital. And that just doesn’t seem fair. 

It also seems unfair that the motorist is demonised as the polluter when they have done more than anybody else in the past twenty years to improve air quality. 

The expansion of ULEZ is part of a concerted attack on motorists and driving. At the same time, Councils are pushing ahead with projects like re-building the Edmonton incinerator. This project alone will emit more than 10% of the likely emissions from all the non-exempt vehicles currently driving in London. And it will generate extra traffic on the A406 as it needs to bring waste in from a far wider area than the seven partner Boroughs which form the North London Waste Authority. It is by rethinking projects like the Edmonton incinerator and by focussing on reducing our reliance on gas for domestic and commercial heating and cooking where those gains will need to come from.

If you want to help stop the expansion of the zone, please sign the petition at www.stopulez.com , share this message with your friends, family and work colleagues and consider donating to help support more adverts around London to raise awareness.

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