The independent London newspaper

Pollution created by motorised vehicles is poisoning our children

25 September, 2020

It’s not Low Traffic Neighbourhoods that create pollution 

• THE accelerated roll-out of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) (or as we know them in Islington, people-friendly streets) is a response to manage a surge in private car usage as public transport has become less feasible and attractive for many.

Already many people I know have made the often-difficult decision, morally or financially, to buy a car because they feel this has become the only available option to them to travel in their own city.

I am supporting LTNs, road filters, and segregated or marked-up cycle lanes because these initiatives are creating feasible transport options for people who do not need to rely on a car for practical, physical, or mental reasons.

Unless we make it safer and nicer to get around on foot, by bike, or other non-motorised means, London will continue to be paralysed by traffic.

This impacts emergency vehicles, accessible transport, and police as they are getting stuck in congestion created by private cars.

In addition pollution created by motorised vehicles is also directly poisoning our children, particularly the ones sitting inside the car, stunting their lungs, and potentially affecting them adversely for the rest of their lives.

I have heard it said that LTNs create pollution. I have also heard that LTNs create congestion. These are both misguided arguments.

It is, of course, the number of people deciding to drive their cars between one destination and another that is causing the pollution and congestion. We have got to be honest about the root cause of a problem.

LTNs are not it. I own a car. It’s small, it was bought used, it’s electric, and shared with other people in my community. However I am acutely aware that every time I use it I am part of the problem.

I live on a street surrounded by large main residential roads. My child goes to school adjacent to the A1 and what becomes the A10. So I have an interest in wanting traffic to reduce on small and main roads. But shouldn’t we all?

The hard truth is that about 25 people die prematurely in London every day because of air pollution, a great proportion of which is generated by traffic.

They don’t die because of LTNs. They don’t die because of cycle lanes or filtered streets or reduced speed limits or less parking. They die because we decided to drive. It’s that simple.

So next time we reach for those car keys (and I am not for one moment suggesting people physically or mentally dependent on their cars should consider doing this or anyone else who for practical reasons absolutely needs to drive) let’s ask ourselves, do I really need to make this journey in my car?

Might there be another way I can reach my destination, or could it be I don’t need to make the journey at all? We all have responsibility in reducing traffic because we are the traffic.

Unless you are campaigning against LTNs so you can protect your own perceived right to drive your car where you want, when you want and how you want, thus limiting the available options for everyone else, I hope you hear me.

And if you do, why not join me in campaigning for less traffic overall, through implementation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, repurposing of parking spaces for green spaces, investment in active travel infrastructure, demand for better collaboration in delivery services, support for our public transport etc etc?

Stay safe.



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