Over 50 organisations across the capital sent an open letter to the Mayor of London this week requesting he direct TfL to implement an ambitious plan for Car Free Day 2018. The letter asks Sadiq Khan to publicly commit to an ambitious Car Free Day plan for London next September. The groups believe that Car Free Day could be an important catalyst for London to address the public health scourge of air pollution, and to test out car-free zones in the city that can then be made permanently car-free as envisioned in the Mayor’s transport plan.
The opportunity to both reduce air pollution and bolster local businesses by going car-free has already motivated Oslo to commit to permanently removing private cars from the city center by 2019. In Madrid, private cars will be removed from over 500 acres of the city by 2020 in a bid to boost local commerce and improve air quality.
Endorsers of the London Car Free Day vision include a host of charities, think-tanks, research groups, businesses, and neighbourhood forums across 15 London Boroughs. According to the letter “World Car Free Day 2018 is a tremendous opportunity to catalyse long-term reductions in air pollution [and] improve London’s transport system.”
Car Free Day is an annual global event held in cities each 22nd September which encourages citizens to walk, cycle or use public transport for one day. While individual boroughs like Hackney, Lambeth, Islington, and Greenwich have all hosted modest Car Free Day celebrations in the past, it has never been a city-wide celebration of walking and cycling like it is in Vancouver, Paris, or Brussels. The letter points out that there is even a weekly Car Free Day in Jakarta, Indonesia, a city of over 10 million.
The Mayor’s new Transport Strategy means that the world is now looking for London’s to lead the global transition to city centres free from private cars. The letter writers consider Car Free Day 2018 as the perfect opportunity to test new models for car-free urban mobility across London. The Day would provide an opportunity to test the air quality improvements of taking private cars out of the city centre. Small businesses across London would benefit from a day with streets full of customers on foot.
Community supporters flagged the many benefits of hosting a Car Free Day. According to Marco Picardi at Green Westway, a community group working to improve the air quality and mobility options around the A40 flyover:
“Car Free Day is an opportunity to test the transformative potential of car-free streets. New approaches are needed to address congestion, pollution, safety, and the public health. Car Free Day is a catalyst to make safe walking and cycling part of a daily routine for Londoners.”
Caroline Russell AM, Green Party Member of the London Assembly emphasised:
“No one should be left out of having streets that are safe and pleasant to use – a car-free day would give Londoners the space to breathe.”“Paris has a monthly car-free day so it is possible for big cities to do this. I want Londoners to have a taste of fresher air and to see that streets can be for people, not just vehicles.”“It would be great to see London open for walking and cycling to give people the freedom to choose how they want to travel without being intimidated by hostile streets.”
According to Rosalind Readhead, Chair of the London Campaign for Better Transport:
“There is a huge opportunity to go car-free in central London and convert road spaces to higher-value activities. We already have 6.8 million parking spaces taking up almost 80km sq. across a city where space is at a huge premium. Could we remove parking spaces and build affordable housing or expand public green space? London Car Free Day is an opportunity to ask these questions and to showcase an ambitious vision for more car-free city centres around the world.”
Other supporters think Car Free Day could make London a more liveable city for all residents: “I grew up in Brussels where there has been an annual Car Free Day for many years. The day is a pleasant opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends, re-discover the city from a different perspective and get some exercise. There is something liberating and empowering about pedestrians and cyclists reclaiming the streets.” says Helena O’Rourke-Potocki, one the co-founders of Our Air Our Health, a clean air campaign in Tower Hamlets.
A version of the letter (See below) sent to the Mayor’s office this morning is also on the online petition platform Change.org so that individual citizens from across London can express their support.
The online petition is accessible here: http://bit.ly/LCFD_petition .
Twitter: @carfreedayLDN #LondonCarFreeDay2018 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carfreedayLDN/
LETTER OF SUPPORT